EU ambassadors met Friday to discuss for how long to delay Brexit as Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled to end Britain’s deep political crisis by pushing for an early elections.
British MPs are reluctant to agree to Johnson’s poll demand unless they can be certain Brexit has been postponed beyond October 31 and the UK has been spared a no-deal divorce from the European Union.
But some EU members, principally France, oppose granting an extension until January 31 next year unless Britain can show it is organising a vote than could clarify its position.
Diplomats from the 27 non-British members began a meeting in Brussels but officials warned a decision might not come before Monday, when British MPs may give their election verdict.
“It’s one thing to say we’d like to have elections, it’s another to say they have been organised,” France’s minister for European affairs Amelie de Montchalin said Thursday.
“We’re not doing political fiction, we need facts in order to make decisions,” she said. “We’d need to know why we’re giving them time. We know that time alone just bogs you down.”
When the ambassadors last met on Wednesday, Germany and Ireland backed postponing Britain’s departure from the bloc until January 31, France sought a shorter delay and other members were on the fence.
On Thursday, Johnson demanded an election on December 12 that he hopes will give him a majority to ratify the Brexit withdrawal agreement he struck with EU leaders last week.
But he would need a two-thirds majority in the current parliament in order to approve an early poll, and the British opposition is split, with some preferring a second referendum on Brexit itself.