Ministers from the 27 remaining countries met in Luxembourg on Tuesday morning to lay the groundwork for the leaders’ meeting in Brussels the next day. Discussions overran by an hour amid debate between the countries about the way to proceed.
“The prolongation of the Article 50 deadline is an instrument and not an objective in itself. The British side must outline a clear plan with credible political backing to justify the decision of the European Council in favour of the extension,” George Ciamba, the Romanian EU minister chairing the meeting said at a press conference afterwards.
EU presidents and prime ministers will decide on whether to grant Theresa May a Brexit extension when they meet on Wednesday, and how long it should be.
Also speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s meeting Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, placed hope in the prospect that new talks between Labour and the Government would produce a consensus in Westminster to back the withdrawal agreement.
“A new element in this very, very serious and complex context we’re operating in is of course the fact that we have had cross-party discussions initiated finally with Labour by Theresa May,” Mr Barnier said.
“We all expressed our hopes and expectations in this regard … that this dialogue will conclude with a positive result which will allow us at last to have a positive majority emerge with regard to this withdrawal agreement.”
He added: “This extension has to serve a purpose; to provide more time to ensure that the political process I’ve described can be crowned with success and that this majority can be attained.”