The Prime Minister, who is hoping to heal deep divides in her Cabinet over Brexit, was one of 28 EU leaders to agree to the proposal during the all-night negotiations at last week’s summit in Brussels.
In the early hours of last Friday morning, marathon negotiations between European heads of state came to a close after they finally reached an agreement on a number of topics, including spending nine hours on migration.
During the summit, leaders, including Mrs May, agreed on the redistribution of British MEPs’ seats for the next 2019-2024 sitting of the European Parliament.
However, this included a Brexit get-out clause, which would allow Britain to keep its MEPs if the country remains an EU member past March 29, 2019.
The European Council’s decision for “establishing the composition of the European Parliament” outline where the 751 MEPs will represent after Brexit as Britain hands back its 73 seats after leaving the EU.
According to Article 3 of the document, Britain will be without a single MEP while France has powers increased with five extra MEPs. Germany will keep the same number of representatives while most countries benefit from a single extra seat.
With Brexit negotiations between Westminster and Brussels appearing to falter, the European Council has included a contingency – supported by Mrs May – which would allow British MEPs to sit in parliament beyond March 2019.
If Britain was to remain in the EU beyond the exit date and past the May date for the next European elections, the country would keep its MEPs.
The Council sets out “in the event that the United Kingdom is still a member state of the Union at the beginning of the 2019-2024 parliamentary term, the number of representatives in the European Parliament per Member State taking up office shall be the one provided for in Article 3 of the European Council Decision” of 2013’s version of the document.
And, then when Britain finally leaves the EU their seats would be reallocated under the terms set out in 2018’s agreement.
“Once the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union becomes legally effective, the number of representatives in the European Parliament elected in each Member State shall be the one provided for in paragraph 1 of this Article,” the conclusion adds.
Ukip MEP Mike Hookem accused the Prime Minister of colluding with the EU “under the cover of darkness” in a bid to ensure Britain is still a member of the EU after March 2019.
He said: “Under the cover of darkness, our Prime Minister and the EU seem to be preparing for us to still be members of the EU come May 2019.
“The whole Article 50 process was designed to delay and obstruct, and the end game is revealing itself.
“Extending our membership by even a second would be a huge betrayal. We should have left the day after the referendum.”