The EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier announced on Friday that EU nations had been unable to come to an agreement on the length of the next Brexit delay due to the fallout from Boris Johnson's demand for a December election.
The British Prime Minister put the cat among the pigeons on Thursday by announcing he wanted a general election on December 12th to break the Brexit deadlock.
Barnier had held a meeting on Friday of EU ambassadors in Brussels and although he described the talks as “excellent” he said no decision was taken on the length of the Brexit extension they would offer the British government.
Barnier suggested a decision would now likely not be made until Monday or Tuesday next week with some EU member states, notably the French, wanting to wait and see whether Boris Johnson will get his wish for a December election.
While a majority of member states are believed to be willing to agree to the January 31st extension – as requested by Johnson through gritted teeth – the French government are not so keen.
One diplomatic source quoted in British newspaper The Guardian said: “It's the French, it's always the French”.
France has made clear up to now that a three month extension would only be palatable if it was for a general election or second referendum. The EU's other heavyweight Germany has been more amenable to a January extension.
Speaking on French radio RTL on Friday morning, France's EU minister Amélie de Montchalin told RTL: “We need to have a clear scenario of why we are giving time: is it to ratify an agreement because we have need a few more days? (…)
“Or is it to organise an election so that we can have a clarification democratically?”, she told RTL.
“The French position is to give more time if it's justified, if we understand why are doing it, ” she insisted.
“It's not a question of an ultimatum, it's a question of clarity. (…) Giving time alone does not lead to anything other than stagnation,” the French minister added.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with French president Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP