I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 to 18, inclusive, together.
I had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister May on the margins of the European Council on 21 March at which we discussed the current state of play with Brexit. The Prime Minister outlined the approach she planned to take at the European Council meeting. Prime Minister May explained that she was seeking an extension of the Article 50 deadline until 30 June, which she hoped would provide sufficient time for her to secure agreement and to complete the legislative arrangements needed to implement it in the UK. I reiterated our wish to see the withdrawal agreement ratified so negotiations on a close, comprehensive and ambitious future relationship between the EU and the UK can start. I also made it clear that we are sympathetic to the case for an extension.
Members will be aware that the European Council, after some discussion, agreed to an extension until 22 May if the withdrawal agreement is approved by the House of Commons this week. Absent that approval, an extension to 12 April was agreed, by which date the UK would be expected to bring forward alternative proposals and give an indication as to whether it intends to take part in the European elections.
I continue to believe that approval of the withdrawal agreement, including the protocol on Ireland, is the best way to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to avoid a hard border on our island. I was pleased to have the continued backing of my fellow European Council members on this objective.
For completeness, I should add that I met the Prime Minister on the margins of the EU-Arab League summit in Egypt on Monday, 25 February.