Plan needed from May over Brexit delay: Danish PM

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen was positive about the EU granting a short extension to the British government to facilitate an orderly Brexit, but said British PM Theresa May needed strong reasons for her requested delay.

Plan needed from May over Brexit delay: Danish PM
Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen in Brussels on Thursday, March 22nd. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville/Ritzau Scanpix

Rasmussen made his comments before leaving for Brussels on Thursday night, where leaders of EU countries met to discuss May’s request for an extension to Article 50, the official notice of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the union.

After a marathon session of talks in Brussels late on Thursday, the EU’s leaders eventually rejected the delay requested by May and instead gave two new, shorter deadlines, extending the date of Brexit beyond next Friday, March 29th.

Under the EU agreement, the UK will now stay a member state until April 12th if May’s withdrawal agreement is rejected by the British parliament at the third time of asking, after it was already twice voted down.

The UK government will be able to seek a longer extension during that period, provided it can both “indicate a way forward” and agree to hold European elections, the EU said. A European source told news agency AFP that the offer means Britain would have to decide by April 11th whether to leave with no deal or seek another delay.

In the unlikely event that May does win the support of parliament next week, the UK will stay a member state until May 22nd, allowing time for necessary withdrawal legislation to be passed.

Speaking at Aalborg airport before leaving for Brussels on Thursday, Rasmussen called for pragmatism.

“My approach is to be pragmatic. If a short delay can result in this ending well, I have a positive view of it. But we have not been given an answer [by May, ed.] on what this (extension) is for,” the PM said to Ritzau.

“We need to hear what the plan is for this delay. It is not a solution, but it is a method by which a solution might be found,” he added.

But May appears to have been unable to convince Rasmussen and the EU’s other leaders, as well as European council president Donald Tusk and European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, that she has a clear plan of action should parliament continue to reject her deal.

According to Reuters news agency, Emmanuel Macron told fellow EU leaders that May only has a five percent chance of winning the vote next week, after hearing the prime minister's speech on Thursday.

READ ALSO: EU piles pressure on Theresa May by granting UK short Brexit delay

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UPDATED: Denmark’s government supports Ukraine EU candidacy 

Denmark’s government has said it will support Ukraine’s bid for EU membership after the European Commission deemed the country’s candidacy viable.

UPDATED: Denmark's government supports Ukraine EU candidacy 

Ukraine’s bid to be part of the EU got a majority backing in Danish Parliament on Friday after the European Commission backed the bid.

“It is really, really important that Europe opens the door for Ukraine, so that we can get started to ensure that Ukraine can be ready for EU membership,” foreign affairs spokesperson Michael Aastrup told newswire Ritzau.

Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said on Twitter that Denmark was looking forward to continuing cooperation with Ukraine on reforms.

The possibility for Ukraine to become part of the EU is conditional on Ukraine implementing reforms – on rule of law, oligarchs, human rights and tackling corruption – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday. She added that “good work has been done.”

Candidacy status is a significant step to joining the EU but the whole process can take years.

“When a candidate’s status is granted, it is not the same as Ukraine being ready to join the EU. There are a large number of criteria to be met and there are a large number of outstanding ones that Ukraine lacks. These are some of the things that are being addressed”, Michael Aastrup said.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will attend a meeting in Brussels next week where the recommendation from the European Commission will be voted and signed off by the EU’s 27 member states. France, Germany and Italy have also already backed Ukraine’s bid but the decision has to be unanimous.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said that status as a candidate for EU membership is vital to his country, while the country’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has said the question could be decisive in the war to defend Ukraine from invasion by Russia.

READ MORE: Number of Ukrainian refugees working in Denmark triples in one month