LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday sought to delay Brexit until June 30 to avoid a chaotic withdrawal from the European Union in one week, but a key leader of the bloc suggested an even longer pause in the difficult divorce proceedings.
The question over timing is vital because Britain is set to leave the EU without a withdrawal deal in place on April 12 unless an agreement is reached at a Brussels summit set to take place two days earlier.
In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, May asked for an extension until June 30 and agreed to make contingency plans to take part in European Parliament elections on May 23-26 if necessary.
Tusk proposed a longer time frame. He urged the 27 remaining EU nations to offer the U.K. a flexible extension of up to a year to make sure the nation doesn’t leave the bloc in a chaotic way that could undermine commerce.
Two EU officials said Tusk wants a one-year period, which has been dubbed a “flextension,” and hopes to get it approved at the EU summit on April 10. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose information before it was made public.
Such a move would mean that the U.K. would need to take part in the elections to the European Parliament, something the U.K. prime minister has long argued would not be in either side’s interest.
The elections pose a substantial stumbling block because Britain would be expected to take part, if it is still an EU member, so its people have representation in the European Parliament. Officials worry that the legitimacy of European institutions could be jeopardized if the population of a member state is not involved in the process.
Any extension to the deadline will need unanimous approval from the rest of the EU. French President Emmanuel Macron has thus far seemed cautious about giving Britain more time, saying the bloc cannot be held hostage by Britain’s political deadlock over Brexit.
There are also concerns in Europe that some British politicians who want to provoke a “no-deal” Brexit might try to make trouble from inside the bloc, a course that outspoken Brexit advocate Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested Friday.
He tweeted that “if a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU, we should be as difficult as possible.”
The Conservative Party lawmaker suggested using Britain’s positon to veto any EU budget increases, block the establishment of an EU army, and make it impossible for Macron to push further EU integration.
Brexit backer Nigel Farage, who has long ridiculed Europe’s institutions, also said he would campaign in European Parliament elections.
If any EU nation refuses to back an extension, Britain will be expected to leave as scheduled on April 12.
There are concerns that such an abrupt exit without a deal could lead to economic slowdown and a breakdown in food and medical supplies as border checks and tariffs are added overnight. Massive traffic jams could also be expected on highways leading to major ferry ports.
An earlier British request for a delay until June 30 was rejected, and officials are disappointed May has again sought an extension until that date, said Larissa Brunner, an analyst with European Policy Center.
“The EU has already said ‘no’ once, so I think Theresa May knows that EU is probably not going to grant her that extension,” she said.
She said May could be able to blame the EU for rejecting an extension if Britain leaves the bloc next week without an agreement.
Britain’s upper House of Lords is set to resume debate on the measure Monday. It was endorsed earlier by the lower House of Commons by just one vote.
Despite the apparent support in Parliament for a new law to prevent a no-deal exit, the decision is in the hands of the EU, not Britain. It is the first country to try to leave the bloc, and the formal “Article 50” exit procedure has never been tested before.
The Europeans would prefer that Britain not take part in the European Parliament elections if it is going to leave. April 12 is the last day for Britain to signal whether it will field candidates.
May said in her letter that Britain is reluctantly ready to begin preparations for the European elections if no Brexit deal is reached in the interim. She said she is making the preparations even though she believes it is not in the interest of either Britain or the EU for her country to participate because it is leaving the bloc.
May said she “accepts” the EU position that if Britain has not left by May 23, it will have a legal obligation to take part in the voting.
She said she hopes to reach a compromise agreement that could take Britain out of the EU before that.
May’s withdrawal plan, reached with the EU over more than two years of negotiations, has been rejected by the U.K. Parliament three times.
She is now seeking a compromise in a series of talks with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his deputies, with hopes of winning opposition support for a new divorce deal.
If that doesn’t work, May plans a series of votes in Parliament to see if a majority-backed plan can emerge.
Ideas being discussed include keeping Britain in a customs union with the EU after it leaves the bloc, as well as the possibility of a second referendum. There is fierce opposition from Brexit backers in the Conservative Party to these options.
Casert reported from Brussels. Associated Press writer Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed.
Gregory Katz And Raf Casert, The Associated Press
Biden works to balance civil rights and criminal justice
WASHINGTON — On one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, he mourned with the family of a fallen police officer. On the other, he pledged to help end the epidemic of Black men being killed by police.
Over the course of a few hours Tuesday, President Joe Biden’s difficult balancing act on policing was put on vivid display. He is urgently trying to navigate criminal justice and civil rights while the White House nervously watches unrest in Minnesota as the trial of the white police officer accused of killing George Floyd winds down.
The test for Biden comes as the nation is on edge awaiting the conclusion of the trial of Derek Chauvin, who prosecutors said killed Floyd, a Black man, last year by placing a knee on his neck for about nine minutes. Tensions have only been heightened by the shooting death this week of another Black man in Minnesota, Daunte Wright, who was killed after police said a white officer accidentally reached for her handgun instead of a taser.
Biden has pledged to help combat racism in policing, helping African Americans who supported him in large numbers last year in the wake of protests that swept the nation after Floyd’s death and restarted a national conversation about race. But he also has long projected himself as an ally of police, including Tuesday, when he travelled to the U.S. Capitol to pay respects to William Evans, a Capitol police officer who was killed when a suspect rammed him with his car outside the citadel of democracy.
“I didn’t know Billy, but I knew Billy,” Biden said at a tearful memorial under the soaring rotunda. “I grew up with Billys in Claymont and Scranton, Pennsylvania. Billy was always the kid that you know if you got in a fight and you’re outnumbered three to one, he’d still jump in, knowing you’d both get beaten.”
Two of Evans’ children clutched stuffed animals as the gazed at their father’s flag-draped coffin, one wearing his father’s police uniform hat. At one moment, a toy replica of the U.S. Capitol was dropped; Biden reached over to pick it up.
His own life defined by grief after having buried two children and his first wife, Biden said his prayer for the Evans family is for “that moment when a smile comes before the tear.” And he saluted the Capitol police force, still reeling from the Jan. 6 insurrection by supporters of President Donald Trump, where one officer died and scores more were injured.
“Never has there been more strain … and responsibility been placed on the shoulders of Capitol Police,” the president said. “And yet, you hear it, you see it, you watch them, and you watch them do their duty with pure courage and not complain.”
Hours later, Biden was in the Oval Office with members of the Congressional Black Congress to convene a meeting that was meant to tout the assistance that his jobs and infrastructure plan would give to Black communities but was shadowed by the police shootings.
Acknowledging it has been “a painful week,” Biden denounced the killing of Wright as “a God-awful shooting” and said that “We’re in the business, all of us here today, of delivering real change” when it comes to policing communities of colour. He promised he could do “a lot” when it comes to revamping how officers interact with African Americans during his time in office.
Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, said after the meeting in a message to those hurt by the shootings that “we are standing here on the grounds of the White House because of them and for them.”
“We feel their pain because many of us have witnessed the same thing,” Beatty said, “the same discrimination, we know there is systemic racism, we know that we need to do better with enforcing police reform, gun reform, we’re asking them to stand with us as we stand with them.”
But so far, Biden’s Department of Justice has been unable to do much.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has signalled that civil rights would be a top priority and that he was committed to combating racial discrimination in policing. During his confirmation hearing, he told lawmakers that America doesn’t “yet have equal justice.”
Advocates hope the department’s priorities will shift dramatically in the Biden administration, with a focus more on civil rights issues, criminal justice overhauls and policing policies in the wake of nationwide protests over the death of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
Garland has also suggested he is more likely to authorize more so-called pattern or practice investigations, sweeping probes into police departments that examine whether systemic deficiencies contribute to misconduct or enable it to persist, which were curtailed under the Trump administration. But the job is not yet filled.
Although Biden announced Kristen Clarke, one of the nation’s foremost civil rights lawyers, to lead the department’s civil rights division at the same time he announced Garland’s nomination, she is not yet in her position. Her confirmation hearing is set for Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Clarke — who has garnered support from some of the nation’s largest law enforcement organizations, dozens of police chiefs and the families of hate crime victims — is expected to tell members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that she would bring a “clear-eyed pursuit of justice” to the position, if she is confirmed.
The Senate has also yet to vote to confirm Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and Vanita Gupta, who previously ran the Justice Department’s civil rights division, to be associate attorney general.
Administration officials have maintained a public silence but have kept tabs on the situation around Minneapolis, which has had two nights of unrest since the Wright killing. There are fears of more after the verdict in the Chauvin trial.
Generally, though, such unrest falls to local police, not federal officials. Federal law enforcement has some role, mostly to protect federal property and buildings and to support local law enforcement officials. The presence of federal officers in some cities last summer, including in Portland, Oregon, where agents were assigned to protect the federal courthouse and other federal offices, became a flashpoint in the protests amid nights of riots.
Jonathan Lemire, Michael Balsamo And Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
Canadian Press NewsAlert: PHAC receives report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca
OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada says it has received a report of an adverse event involving blood clots after someone in Canada received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
This is the first such reported case in Canada.
The federal agency says the person is now recovering at home.
The vaccine was the one produced at the Serum Institute of India, known as Covishield.
The Canadian Press
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