Britain will be blocked from taking part in the upcoming EU elections, one of Europe's most influential politicians has suggested.
Leader of the European People's Party (EPP) Manfred Weber has cast serious doubts on a long Brexit extension after he said allowing the UK to take part in May's European Elections would be a step too far and countries have already made significant compromises.
If Britain were given a long-term extension to Article 50, they would have to elect MEPs.
This would have knock-on impacts on other EU countries who have gained seats after the reallocation of the UK’s 73 EU parliament seats.
Ireland received two additional seats, bringing its total to 13. But these seats would be put on ice if Brexit is extended beyond April 12.
"There are a lot of voices who will not accept that Great Britain will participate in the elections, I myself I must tell you I cannot explain to people in Spain, Greece, in Finland or even here in Ireland that a country that is leaving the European Union has a big say in the future of the European Union, that is a big question on the table," said Mr Weber who is widely tipped to become the next president of the European Commission.
Speaking at the Fine Gael national conference in Wexford, Mr Weber said:
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the Government have made plans to allow for a scenario where the two extra EU seats are put on hold.
"I think that would have a disruptive impact and would may not be facilitated any way but even if it was, we do have a legal mechanism that would essentially meant that two of the 13, the last elected in Ireland South and the last elected in Dublin would essentially not take their seats until that vacancy arose when the UK leaves the EU and therefore withdraws from the European parliament."
In #Wexford, young Irish farmers told me about the challenges they are faced with & their concerns about the impact of #Brexit on their livelihoods.The @EPP has always been a strong supporter of farmers & we will do our utmost to help them. They can count on us. #Listeningtour19 pic.twitter.com/Ylcr79TUuo— Manfred Weber (@ManfredWeber) March 23, 2019
However, he said British involvement in the EU elections is "very unlikely" at this stage.
But Mr Weber warned that other countries are not as prepared as Ireland.
"Not all countries have the same legal conditions for preparing for two scenarios".
He said this presents "legal problems on the table due to the uncertainty from London and that is what we cannot accept".
The German politician added that last week's agreement by EU leaders to provide a short Brexit extension should not be "underestimated" as it was "already a kind of compromise".