Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen addressed the European Parliament today, saying she would be ready to grant a further Brexit delay beyond 31 October.
Von der Leyen is set to become the new president of the European Commission, a role currently held by Jean-Claude Juncker.
“I stand ready for a further extension of the withdrawal date should more time be required for a good reason,” she told MEPs in Strasbourg today.
Her speech prompted an angry response from Conservative MEPs, one of whom urged the politician to address Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Geoffrey Van Orden retorted some aspects of May’s Brexit deal “are clearly unacceptable to the UK”.
“This would not take a lot, solutions are there,” he added. “I am disappointed that all you seem to offer is extension of our withdrawal date. This is not ambitious enough.”
Parliament defeated May’s deal three times, ultimately leading to the Prime Minister’s resignation.
Both Tory leadership frontrunners, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, have ruled out the so-called Irish backstop from any future deal.
MPs had feared the backstop would tie the UK into an indefinitely long customs union with the EU.
But the candidates’ refusal to endorse a backstop sent sterling plunging to a 27-month low today.
The EU is now bracing itself for either a no-deal Brexit or yet another delay if Johnson wins the race to become the next UK Prime Minister, it is reported.
Johnson has pledged to follow through on a “do or die” Brexit in which the UK leaves the EU on 31 October with or without a deal.
“There is very little wiggle room on what the EU can offer a new PM,” one EU member state official told Reuters.
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A diplomat added: “If they come and ask us to renegotiate the Brexit deal, we will say ‘Thanks, but no thanks’.”