LONDON — The British pound held its ground following the European Union’s late-night decision to give Britain another six months to sort out its Brexit plans, extending the deadline to Oct. 31 from April 12.
On Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed Members of Parliament regarding the latest extension and her plans for more cross-party talks and any relevant votes on Britain’s withdrawal. She urged MPs to reflect on the Brexit process during their Easter break, and resolve to leave the EU as soon as possible.
“I know the whole country is intensely frustrated that this process to leave the European Union has not still been completed,” May told MPs in her last address to them before the Easter break. “I never wanted to seek this extension — and I deeply regret that we have not yet been able to secure agreement in this house for a deal that would allow us to leave in a smooth and orderly way.”
She acknowledged the Brexit debate is putting MPs under “immense pressure” and causing uncertainty across the country. “So let us use the opportunity of the recess to reflect on the decisions that will have to be made swiftly on our return after Easter. And let us then resolve to find a way through this impasse so that we can leave the European Union with a deal as soon as possible.”
May said she wanted to avoid having to hold European Parliamentary elections and “fulfil the democratic decision of the referendum, deliver Brexit and move our country forward. This is our national duty as elected members of this House — and nothing today is more pressing or more vital,” she said.
May had made a quick trip to Brussels on Wednesday to ask EU leaders for an extension to the April 12 deadline as British leaders and lawmakers cannot agree on a withdrawal plan. EU leaders were in Brussels for an emergency summit to discuss a possible new Brexit extension.
On Thursday Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the second delay to Brexit “a diplomatic failure,” while members of May’s Conservative party were split between applauding May for securing the extension and attacking her for her failure to deliver a viable Brexit deal.
The House of Commons will reconvene on April 23.
On Thursday, the pound was trading at $1.31 and 1.16 euros. Those rates were broadly steady over the past weeks of Brexit voting and uncertainty.
The Confederation of British Industry, CBI, said the latest extension — following a late-night dinner of European Union leaders on Wednesday — isn’t really a triumph for anyone.
“An imminent economic crisis has been averted, (but Britain) needs to make a fresh start. More of the same will just mean more chaos this autumn. Businesses will today be adjusting their no-deal plans, not canceling them,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of CBI.
Due to its failure to leave the European Union, the U.K. will now be forced to hold European elections in May or leave on June 1 without a deal.