Jüri Ratas to attend Brussels Brexit meeting ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Jüri Ratas (Centre). Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

De facto prime minister, Jüri Ratas (Centre), is travelling to Brussels on Wednesday to take party in a European Council meeting focussing on Brexit.

The meeting, which brings together heads of states and governments from the 27 EU member states, will examine the latest developments concerning Brexit, and a request from UK Prime Minister Theresa May (Conservative) to extend the deadline for that country's withdrawal from the union. The original leave date, 28 March, was extended to 12 April following a deadlock in the UK as Mrs May was unable to get her withdrawal bill passed, after three attempts, at the House of Commons. Subsequently, a bill scraped through the UK parliament, aimed at preventing a ''no deal'' Brexit. Thus the UK has been unable to leave either with or without a deal yet, with the latest deadline this Friday.

Jüri Ratas has said that an orderly withdrawal agreement for the UK exiting the EU is in the best interests of all parties, according to a government press release.

"Today, I will discuss the request made by the UK to extend the exiting date from the EU with my colleagues, and we will make a joint decision. Estonia is open to a longer extension, but it must serve a clear purpose. It must allow EU 27 Member States to focus on their future and guarantee that the European Union is functioning efficiently," Mr Ratas said.

30 June next milestone

The length of any prospective further Brexit extension is as yet unknown, though Theresa May submitted a request to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, on 5 April, asking for an extension to 30 June.

Leaders of the 27 Member States of the EU are also meeting with Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, as well as with Mrs May, on Thursday.

Mr Ratas had met with Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis in Tallinn earlier on Wednesday, and is due to return to Estonia straight after the European Council meeting, his office reports.

The European Council is one of several key EU bodies, and defines the union's overall political direction and priorities. It comprises the heads of state or government of the EU member states, along with Donald Tusk,  and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. It is not to be confused either with the Council of the European Union, one half of the EU's legislature (together with the European Parliament) or the Council of Europe, an unrelated international body which predates both the EU and its predecessor organisations, and aims to uphold human rights, amongst other functions.

Jüri Ratas' government resigned as per procedure after the opening of the XIV Riigkogu on 4 April, but he remains in the post until a coalition lineup attains a Riigikogu majority. He and his own proposed coalition with Isamaa and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) must at the very least wait and see what happens with presidential nominee for the role, Kaja Kallas (Reform) and her own coalition, promised for 15 April.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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