Theresa May asks EU for Brexit extension until 30 June

With the Brexit deadline due next week, British Prime Minister Theresa May has written to the European Union to request a further delay to until 30 June

UK requests another delay to Brexit
UK requests another delay to Brexit

Theresa May has written to the European Union to request a further delay to Brexit until 30 June. The UK is currently due to leave the EU on 12 April and, as yet, no withdrawal deal has been approved by British MPs.

The prime minister has proposed that if UK MPs approve a deal in time, the UK should be able to leave before European parliamentary elections due between 23 and 25 May. But May said the UK would prepare to field candidates in those elections in case no agreement is reached.

It is up to the EU whether to grant an extension to Article 50, the legal process through which the UK is leaving the EU after MPs repeatedly rejected the withdrawal agreement reached between the UK and the bloc.

Media reports on Friday quoted a senior EU source saying that European Council President Donald Tusk might propose a 12-month "flexible" extension to Brexit, with the option of cutting it short, if the UK Parliament ratifies a deal.

But French President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Friday that it was "premature" to consider another delay while French diplomatic sources described Tusk's suggestion as a "clumsy test balloon".

The British prime minister wrote to Tusk to request the extension ahead of an EU summit on 10 April, where leaders of 27 EU states would have to unanimously agree on any plan to delay the UK's departure.

May had already requested an extension to the end of June, but this was rejected at a summit last month.

Instead, she was offered a short delay to 12 April, the date by which the UK must say whether it intends to take part in the European parliamentary elections or leave on 22 May, with a deal.

A Downing Street spokesman said there were "different circumstances now" and the prime minister "has been clear she is seeking a short extension".

In her letter, the prime minister says she would continue to seek the "rapid approval" of the withdrawal agreement and a "shared vision" for the future relationship between the UK and EU.

She said if cross-party talks with the Labour Party could not establish "a single unified approach" in the UK Parliament, MPs would be asked to vote on a series of Brexit options instead which the government "stands ready to abide by" if Labour commits to doing the same.

The UK proposes an extension to the process until 30 June, she wrote, and "accepts the European Council's view that if the United Kingdom were still a member state of the European Union on 23 May 2019, it would be under a legal obligation to hold the elections".

To this end, she says the UK is "undertaking the lawful and responsible preparations for this contingency".

But it said if a withdrawal agreement could be ratified by parliament before then "the government proposes that the period should be terminated early" so the UK can leave the EU before then, and cancel preparations for the European Parliamentary elections.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK still hoped to leave "in the next couple of months", but it may have "little choice" but to accept a longer delay if Parliament could not agree on a solution.

But Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said the EU "should be careful what it wishes for".

Another Tory Eurosceptic, Sir Bernard Jenkin, said he would prefer to stay in the EU for another year than for Britain to accept a "humiliating defeat" of a withdrawal agreement.

Talks between Labour and the Conservatives are continuing on Friday.

Speaking to Labour activists in Newport on Friday, Corbyn said the government "haven't appeared to have changed their opinions very much as yet". He said Labour would push to maintain the UK's "market relationship with Europe", including defending rights and regulations.

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