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If Brexit is extended we must start rebuilding relations with the EU

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Another vote, another chance to complain that the House of Commons is good at saying what it doesn’t want and not so hot on deciding what it does. But viewing the muddle from Brussels, Paris and Berlin is a clarifying experience. The more so after last night’s outcome saw the dim-sum options — ranging from a “confirmatory” public vote on Theresa May’s bedraggled withdrawal proposal to a customs union — move closer while remaining tantalisingly out of reach.

For all the absorption in indicative votes and who “controls” business in the Commons, it is not really Westminster that has taken control of the Brexit process, but the European Union. Weather-makers in the major member states will now have their own knotty dilemma at the European Council next week — what to do about extending Britain’s departure timetable.

It has finally dawned on MPs that the EU’s handling of the next stage of the process will be determined by the timetable of the European parliamentary elections and whether Britain takes part or not. Days after the March 29 intended leaving date the Electoral Commission has issued contingency plans for the UK to hold elections to the European Parliament. The EU’s position, however, remains that this is a party to which we are firmly uninvited — a final decision needs to be made by April 12. Its protocol states clearly that “of the 73 seats vacated by Brexit, 27 will be re-allocated to........

© Evening Standard