Wed, Mar 20, 2019 - Page 1 News List

May seeking Brexit delay to June 30 with two-year extension option: report

Reuters, LONDON and BRUSSELS

A screen grab shows UK House of Commons Speaker John Bercow speaking in Parliament in London on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May was to write to the EU to ask for a Brexit extension until the end of June and with a possible two-year delay, the BBC’s political editor said.

With Britain due to leave the bloc in just 10 days, May’s spokesman earlier said she would be writing to European Council President Donald Tusk to request a delay to Brexit either yesterday or today.

However, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said on Twitter after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting: “Cabinet sources say PM is writing letter to EU today asking for extension — frustration that she is going to ask for end date of June 30th, with proviso of delay of up to 2 years.”

“One source says there was no agreement in the room, another source furious that it seems PM avoiding making an actual decision again about the option she would like to take but wants option of short delay to try to find way of having another go with her deal,” Kuenssberg added.

While EU governments appear exasperated by British dithering over quitting the bloc, they have little appetite for pushing it out on schedule next week without a divorce deal, senior figures said.

EU ministers in Brussels to prepare for a summit with May tomorrow voiced frustration after UK House of Commons Speaker John Bercow threw up a new obstacle for her plan to get her Brexit deal ratified before the deadline on Friday next week.

“Our patience as the European Union is being sorely tested at the moment,” German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth told reporters. “Dear friends in London, please deliver. The clock is ticking.”

However, Roth also echoed comments in Berlin by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said she would “fight to the last minute” until midnight on Friday next week to ensure an orderly exit for the EU’s second-ranked economy.

Roth said that Germany’s main aim was to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would disrupt business across the continent.

However, after two defeats for the withdrawal agreement that May negotiated with the EU, and her difficulty in trying to get it through parliament on a third vote even before Bercow ruled that it must be substantially changed, it is not clear how the prime minister can avert this without asking fellow leaders for more time.

Leaders expect to discuss such an extension at the two-day summit starting tomorrow afternoon, but if May has yet to make a concrete proposal on her next move, then the summit could do little more than outline possible steps — such as a readiness to give her a couple of months, or maybe longer.

“If there is no move from London, the leaders can also decide to wait,” Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders said. “It really depends on what May will say at the summit.”

Diplomats said that EU member states were still discussing options for extension — possibly only for two to three months, if May persuades them she could clinch a deal at home, or for much longer if May accepts that radical reworking is needed.

However, these would come with conditions and might not be agreed until next week.

Merkel said there was “far too much in flux” to forecast the outcome of the summit, but German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas told reporters in Finland: “If more time is needed, it’s always better to do another round than a no-deal Brexit.”

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