STRASBOURG, France – The president of the European Council warned the United Kingdom’s government Wednesday not to betray what he said was a growing number of voters who want to stay in the European Union.
Donald Tusk warned lawmakers not to ignore an “increasing majority” of people in the UK who want to stay in the EU.
“You cannot betray the six million people who signed the petition to revoke Article 50, the one million people who marched for a People’s Vote, or the increasing majority of people who want to remain in the European Union,” he said.
He added: “They may feel that they are not sufficiently represented by the UK Parliament, but they must feel that they are represented by you in this chamber. Because they are Europeans.”
Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Tusk said the EU should be open to a long extension to Brexit if the UK “wishes to rethink its strategy.”
An extension beyond May 22 could mean the UK has to take part in EU elections.
Tusk said: “And then there were voices saying that this would be harmful or inconvenient to some of you. Let me be clear: such thinking is unacceptable.”
On Saturday around one million people packed central London to call for a second referendum on Brexit.
A petition calling for the revocation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the official mechanism that Prime Minister Theresa May triggered to begin a two-year negotiation period with the EU, has gained almost 5.9 million signatures.
Nearly three years after the UK voted to leave the EU, Parliament is gridlocked, with lawmakers twice rejecting a Brexit deal May negotiated.
MPs are due to hold indicative votes on Wednesday on a number of options to see if there is a parliamentary majority for a different Brexit deal.
Tusk said EU leaders will probably hold another summit to discuss Brexit in April.
Brexit has been delayed past the original March 29 deadline date. EU leaders last week agreed that if May’s deal is passed, the UK will leave the bloc on May 22. But if the deal is rejected, the UK would have to come up with an alternative Brexit plan by April 12.
May has stood by her plans to push her withdrawal deal, the result of 18 months of negotiations with the EU, through the UK’s House of Commons, the UK’s lower chamber of lawmaking.
But it has come up against several obstacles.
Not only does it face opposition parties, but May was also struggling to secure the vote of pro-Brexit backbenchers in her own ranks as well as the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party.
Both took issue over the plans for the border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, a UK territory.
The UK voted to abandon the bloc in a tightly-contested 2016 referendum.