Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/THIERRY MONASSE
Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/THIERRY MONASSE

Helsinki — The likelihood of the EU extending the UK’s Brexit deadline “looks good”, after which Britain should put forward a candidate for the European commission, its incoming president said on Thursday.

“The question of granting an extension, that looks very good,” EU president-elect Ursula von der Leyen told reporters during a visit to Helsinki.

On Wednesday, EU member states backed a plan to postpone Brexit beyond October 31, after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was compelled to send an extension request under a law passed by rebel MPs.

On Thursday, Von der Leyen said that a further Brexit delay would mean the UK should put forward a nominee to join the incoming cabinet of EU commissioners. “If, after the first of November — and this is not a given — there might be an extension and the UK is still in the EU, then of course I would ask the UK to send a commissioner.” 

The new commission was scheduled to start its work on November 1, but that has been delayed until at least December after the European parliament rejected candidate commissioners from France, Hungary and Romania.

The UK has previously declined to propose a candidate for the next administration, owing to the country’s expected departure before the new commission begins sitting. EU law states that each member state should have a representative in the commission.

The EU is also yet to agree on the length of an extension. European Council president Donald Tusk recommended an extension until January 31, with some reports suggesting France favoured a shorter delay to help Johnson pressure the UK parliament into quickly approving the withdrawal agreement.

Speaking alongside Von der Leyen on Thursday, Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, who holds the EU rotating presidency, said he expects that EU leaders will reach an agreement on the length of an extension without having to convene a special summit in Brussels.

“If there is a need to discuss [the length of an extension] in Brussels, I am ready to go there also,” Rinne said. “But now it seems to me that it is possible to have a written process.” 

AFP