The president of the European Parliament spoke directly with Commons speaker John Bercow, telling him Brussels would back a Brexit extension if the final decision is put to UK voters.
David Sassoli, who was in London yesterday, today told his fellow MEPs in Brussels that “not much progress has been made” in recent days. He met with the Prime Minister at Downing Street, before telling journalists he did not believe a deal could be reached before the deadline.
But today Sassoli also revealed he had spoken directly with John Bercow, telling him that the European Parliament would back an extension “in order to have time for a general election or a referendum.”
Any extension request would have to come from the UK, he added.
Sassoli told the plenary session: “John Bercow and I fully agreed on the important role that our parliaments play in the Brexit process.
“There is also a common awareness that a disorderly exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union would be against the interests of British and European citizens.”
Boris Johnson’s latest offer “constitutes ideas rather than operable proposals that can operate immediately”, the Italian politician added.
The discussion between Bercow and Sassoli has raised eyebrows in Westminster, although one government source appeared resigned to the situation. “I don’t think anything surprises us any more to be honest,” the source said.
Speaking during the same session European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he would not accept this blame game, “which started in London”.
He added: “I would like to repeat to the attention of our British friends that there is not only a parliament in Westminster which has to agree, there is a parliament here.”
But he added that “personally” he would not rule out a deal.
Michel Barnier echoed this cautious outlook, although he raised serious problems with negotiations as they stand.
“To put things frankly at this particular point we are not able to find an agreement,” he said. “The thing is though that time is pressing.”
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