A LEADING European politician has attacked the decision to give the UK a six-month Brexit extension, saying Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will squander the extra time and fail to make any progress.

In a powerful speech in Strasbourg, Guy Verhofstadt noted, damningly, that the first thing British politicians did after they were granted the delay last week “was go on holiday”.

He told MEPs the extension to Article 50 until October 31 was “too near for a substantial rethink of Brexit and at the same time too far away to prompt any action”.

“My fear is that with this decision, the pressure to come to a cross-party agreement disappears,” the Brexit co-ordinator for the European Parliament said, referring to the talks between Labour and the Conservatives to try to find a Brexit compromise.

“And that both parties, the Conservatives and Labour, will again [do] what they did for months – run down the clock.

“And the proof of this is that the first decision the House of Commons took after your decision was to go on holidays.”

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Verhofstadt argued that too much of the EU’s energy was focussed on the UK’s decision to leave the bloc at a time when more focus should be paid on “EU renewal”.

Earlier yesterday morning, European Council President Donald Tusk – who agreed to the six-month Brexit extension along with the leaders of the 27 remaining EU nations – said he still hoped Brexit could be reversed.

He told MEPs the UK would continue to be represented in the European Parliament for “several months – maybe longer” if, as is likely, it takes part in the May 23 elections.

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The Prime Minister secured the extension to the Article 50 process at a summit last week in order to prevent a no-deal departure from the EU, though she still hopes the UK can leave earlier than the Halloween deadline if she can get MPs to back her withdrawal agreement.

Cross-party talks with Labour aimed at securing a Commons majority for a deal are continuing but Corbyn said “there’s no agreement yet” and “the Government doesn’t appear to be shifting the red lines”.

Tusk said he disagreed with one of the bloc’s leaders who had said the EU should abandon hope of the UK reversing its decision to leave.

“During the European Council one of the leaders warned us not to be dreamers, and that we shouldn’t think that Brexit could be reversed,” he said.

“I would like to say: at this rather difficult moment in our history, we need dreamers and dreams.

“We cannot give in to fatalism. At least I will not stop dreaming about a better and united Europe.”

Earlier in his speech he said he hoped the extension agreed last week would give the UK “more time and political space” to find a way out of the current situation and that EU leaders would be “awaiting a clear message from the UK on a way forward”.

He added: “If the withdrawal agreement were to be ratified, the extension period will automatically end on the first day of the following month, meaning that the UK would leave the Union on that day.

“It is clear to everyone that there will be no re-opening of the withdrawal agreement. However, to facilitate the ratification process, the EU27 is ready to reconsider the Political Declaration on the future relationship, if the UK position were to evolve.”

He went on to say a long extension ensured all options remain on the table, such as ratification of the current deal, time to rethink Brexit, as well as more time to the EU to focus on other priorities such as trade with the US and the election of new EU leaders.

He added the extra time delayed the possibility of a no-deal, giving people and businesses “some certainty in these unstable times”.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU has “nothing to gain” from the disruption a no-deal Brexit would bring to the UK. He said: “We have adopted the necessary contingency measures and we are ready for a no-deal Brexit.

“But our union has nothing to gain from great disruption in the United Kingdom. The only ones who would benefit are those who resent multi-lateralism and seek to undermine the global legal order.”