Politics update: EU likely to demand year-long Brexit delay, as May’s pitch is met with hostility

May’s Brexit plans disrupted as EU looks towards extension of up to a year

Donald Tusk

May’s request for a short extension of article 50 until the end of June is likely to be denied, with European Council president Donald Tusk instead looking to offer an extension of up to a year.

The prime minister has previously said she could not accept Britain staying in the EU past the end of June, as it would mean the country having to take part in EU elections. However, in a damning letter sent to EU leaders on Tuesday, Tusk suggested that Britain was unlikely to agree on any Brexit deal in the Commons by that date, instead opting for the end of the year or March 2020.

Task said that the EU’s “experience so far, as well as the deep divisions within the House of Commons, give us little reason to believe that the ratification process can be completed by the end of June”.

The Guardian newspaper obtained a leaked draft of the summit communique which will be agreed by EU leaders when they meet today. It assumes in return for an extension a “commitment by the United Kingdom to act in a constructive and responsible manner throughout this unique period in accordance with the duty of sincere cooperation”.

The text adds that this means the UK “shall facilitate the achievement of the union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the union’s objectives,” adding that Britain will have to leave on 1 June unless it has held European elections between 23-26 May.

Cabinet members are now likely to question whether May can survive as party leader, given her strong opposition to the idea of a long extension and the UK taking part in EU elections, as well as objections that will be raised by Tory Brexiteers.

DUP: May’s talks with EU ‘humiliating and embarrassing’

Nigel Dodds

Democratic Unionist Party members Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds have branded Theresa May’s talks with the EU as ‘humiliating and embarrassing’.

As the prime minister met with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel on Tuesday, Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, said that that May had “opted not to stand up to Brussels” when she accepted the Irish border backstop.

The party, which props up the Conservative’s majority in the House of Commons as part of a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement, has strongly opposed the prime minister’s Brexit deal since the beginning because of the backstop issue.

Speaking on Tuesday, Dodds said: “The talks between the prime minister and the leaders of France and Germany is humiliating and embarrassing for the United Kingdom,”

“The problems the Prime Minister is attempting to solve were not created by the decision to leave the European Union, rather the ineffective negotiations by the Prime Minister to implement that decision.

“A solution was put forward by the House of Commons on 29th January through the Brady amendment which could have charted a course by which Parliament could have supported a deal. Instead of treating this proposal seriously, the prime minister has effectively accepted the backstop and opted not to stand up to Brussels.

“Nearly three years after the referendum the UK is today effectively holding out a begging bowl to European leaders.”

Brexit already leading to medicine shortages

UK Medicine shortage Brexit

Brexit is already causing shortages of certain medicines at pharmacies in England, according to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).

Britain’s planned exit from the European Union, along with medicine manufacturers’ reaction to the Brexit process, had led to an official list of “concession” priced medicines – those drugs for which the NHS will pay a higher than usual tariff.

The PSNC, which represents pharmacy and medicine figures in the UK, said that manufacturers now view the country as a less attractive market, leading to the issues in medicine supplies.

Epilepsy patients in particular have shown growing worries over shortages. The Epilepsy Society, Britain’s largest epilepsy charity, said that the number of calls to its helpline related to drugs shortages had escalated in the last six months.

Simon Dukes, the chief executive of PSNC, said: “Community pharmacies are reporting increasing problems sourcing some generic medicines for their patients.”

He added: “Community pharmacy teams are continuing to work hard to ensure that all patients receive the medicines they need when they need them, but we are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact that this is having on already busy pharmacy teams.”

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