BRUSSELS is preparing the ground for Britain to stay in the EU beyond next March amid fears Theresa May’s government is now too dysfunctional to negotiate properly.
Eurocrats have held high-level informal talks about the possibility of extending the Article 50 period if talks fail to progress over the summer.
Getty – Contributor Eurocrats are plotting to delay Brexit thanks to political chaos in Westminster
Officials watched on in dismay as Parliament descended into anarchy this week, with both the PM and Jeremy Corbyn suffering significant rebellions in Brexit votes.
And some have now concluded Westminster is so fundamentally divided on key issues, including whether to stay in the single market, that negotiations might not be finished on time.
Earlier this week EU ministers paved the way for the UK to stay in the bloc until 2024 as they quietly agreed a legal dossier on the composition of the next EU Parliament.
The document states that Britain will continue to have MEPs “in the event it is still a Member State of the Union at the beginning of the 2019-2024 parliamentary term”.
AP:Associated Press Theresa May is fighting to control a rebellion from her pro-EU MPs
It adds that our representatives would continue to go to Strasbourg “until the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union becomes legally effective”.
Ex-Ukip leader Nigel Farage told The Sun: “The EU will do anything and everything to keep Great Britain entangled in its failing project so our taxpayers can fund the operation.
“It’s time for the British government to proclaim the British people voted to leave the EU and make sure this decision is implemented in full, which means no UK MEPs in Brussels for the next term.”
A senior EU official told The Sun member states would definitely agree to extend Article 50, but raised doubts about whether Mrs May could survive such a big negotiating “defeat”.
However others believe her administration is now so paralysed the PM is barely in charge, with David Davis also apparently having been sidelined in the talks.
EPA Nigel Farage hit out at Eurocrats over the revelation
One EU diplomat asked: “How can we do a deal when we don’t even know who’s running this?” Another official added: “We’re watching and we’re saying, pull yourselves together.”
And one exasperated EU source summed up the mood, saying of this week’s Westminster shenanigans: “I don’t understand where this all ends up.”
Speaking in Madrid on Thursday night, Ireland’s PM Leo Varadkar warned that securing a Brexit deal cannot go down to the wire in the Autumn.
He said: “Of course it’s not the case there is going to be some sort of compromise cobbled together late at night at the EU Council in October.
“It’s not a negotiating meeting, the UK will not be there. Any agreement will have to be concluded between the UK on the one hand and the EU taskforce on the other.”
PA:Press Association Leo Varadkar has warned British politicians to stop squabbling
Any transition deal is linked to the two sides sealing a withdrawal agreement, meaning an extension of Article 50 is the only way to avoid a crash out if talks stall.
The revelations came as Brussels delivered another blow to the PM’s hopes of an unprecedented deal on security co-operation.