CHEERING MPs celebrated being given an Easter break yesterday hours after being granted a six-month Brexit extension — as European leaders pleaded: ‘Do not waste this time.’
Commons leader Andrea Leadsom (pictured) announced the House would not return until April 23. It came after the 27 EU leaders backed Theresa May’s request for an extension to the Article 50 process and agreed on October 31, — unless a deal is reached earlier.
Following a meeting that ran into the early hours in Brussels, European Council president Donald Tusk suggested patience was running out with the UK, which was supposed to have left the bloc two weeks ago. ‘Please, do not waste this time,’ he urged.
Labour former minister and ex-vicar Chris Bryant was among the MPs welcoming the break.
‘I’m delighted we’re having an Easter recess,’ he said. ‘At the rate we were going, I thought we would get to Easter Sunday and the good Lord would rise again before this House ever did.’
Meanwhile, the prime minister said Britain could yet avoid voting in European elections next month if MPs approved her withdrawal deal, which has been defeated heavily three times already, before May 23.
But Mrs May admitted reaching an agreement in talks with Labour would ‘not be easy’, amid wrangling over the opposition’s demand for some kind of customs union with the EU.
She told MPs: ‘However challenging it may be politically, I profoundly believe that, in this unique situation where the House is deadlocked, it is incumbent on both front benches to seek to work together to deliver what the British people voted for.
‘We need to resolve this so that we can leave the European Union with a deal as soon as possible.
‘This is our national duty as elected members of this House and nothing is more pressing or more vital.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it would continue in ‘serious, detailed and ongoing’ negotiations with the government but hit out at what he said was an apparent attempt by international trade secretary Liam Fox to ‘scupper’ them by publicly trying to rule out a customs union.
However, Mrs May insisted: ‘I think there is actually more agreement in relation to a customs union than is often given credit for when different language is used.’
She had gone to Brussels to ask for a delay until June 30, only to be told a six-month postponement was preferred, taking the departure date to Halloween, despite complaints by France’s president Emmanuel Macron who lobbied for a shorter timescale.