The European Union has agreed to delay the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU, known as Brexit, until Oct. 31.
The deal, announced early Thursday in Brussels, averts a potential crisis as British leaders had failed to agree on their own plan for pulling out of the multi-state trade arrangement by Friday.
British Prime Minister Theresa May again called on Parliament to approve her Brexit deal.
“I know that there is a huge frustration from many people that I had to request this extension,” May said in a news conference. “The U.K. should have left the EU by now and I sincerely regret the fact that I have not been able to persuade parliament to approve the deal.”
French President Emmanuel Macron called the six-month extension “the best possible compromise” with other EU leaders who were prepared to give the U.K. a year to work out its Brexit plan. Macron favored a shorter deadline fearing potential negative effects of the U.K. staying in the bloc before its exit.
“What is indispensable for us is that nothing can compromise the European project in the following months,” the French president said as quoted by the Washington Post. “We have a European renaissance to implement, and I do not want the issue of Brexit to block us at this point.”
Elections for the European Parliament are scheduled for next month. Macron said the British have to decide whether to participate in the elections with an eye toward soon leaving the EU.
“Please do not waste this time,” said European Council President Donald Tusk, advising the U.K. to finally decide on the details of its planned departure from the EU.
Few observers missed that the Oct. 31 deadline coincides with Halloween.
“They’re not trying to be funny, but I think it’s totally appropriate given that, the way Brexit has gone, said NPR’s Frank Langfitt on All Things Considered. “It has been pretty much a horror story from early on.”
Langfitt said the real reason for the late October deadline is that the European Commission, the group that proposes legislation within the EU, will be seated on Nov. 1.
“So the idea is get the U.K. out before then,” said Langfitt. “There’s a concern that if there is a Brexiteer prime minister who comes in after Prime Minister May, they might try to cause some trouble.”