Theresa May: I regret need for Brexit delay

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However Mrs Merkel, who met Mrs May in Berlin on Tuesday ahead of the Brussels summit, suggested they "may well" go for a longer delay, although the United Kingdom would be allowed to leave "very quickly" if Parliament approves a withdrawal deal.

Under pressure from France's president Macron, the Brexit delay to 31 October is shorter than Donald Tusk, the EU's president, and many government heads thought desirable - though still considerably longer than Theresa May consistently said was acceptable.

"It is long overdue that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn abandon their party political games, stop wasting time, and give the people the final say with an option to stay in the European Union".

"Please do not waste this time".

What was agreed late last night poses an immediate and important question for MPs and ministers, because there is an explicit opportunity for the United Kingdom to avoid participating in the European Union election by leaving without a deal on 1 June.

If a withdrawal deal could be ratified within the first three weeks of May, the United Kingdom could still avoid participation in that month's European Parliament elections and leave the EU in June, she said.

"But the choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear".

"It is welcome that we will not be crashing out on Friday but Scotland did not vote for Brexit and should not be forced to accept a Brexit deal put together by Labour and the Tories - parties that have ignored Scotland's voice and interests every step of the way", he said.

Talks between the government and Labour are due to continue to see if, between them, they can work together and come up with a plan for what to do next. "Nothing is more pressing or more vital".

"If the United Kingdom is still a Member of the EU on 23-26 May 2019 and if it has not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by 22 May 2019, it must hold the elections to the European Parliament in accordance with Union law".

In a letter to the leaders of the remaining EU27, Mr Tusk said there was "little reason to believe" that the ratification of Mrs May's beleaguered Brexit deal could be completed by the end of June.

The European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, told the room that Macron's opposition meant that "we are now only solving French domestic problems".

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A United Kingdom exit by that date would get round the diplomatically awkward requirement for London to appoint a new Commissioner to his successor's team.

Macron insisted on speaking last during a working dinner in Brussels on Wednesday night during which he set his stall against a longer extension up to 31 December backed by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

"I take responsibility for this position, I think it's for the collective good".

The Prime Minister will meet the leaders of the remaining European Union 27 later on Wednesday to press for a further extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process to June 30 to allow her more time to get a deal through Parliament. "It will take hours before we pull him down from his tree".

She consulted Attorney General Geoffrey Cox by telephone before confirming that the new deal was acceptable.

Importantly, she added that "the government stands...

That is why the request today is to June 30 in order that we can leave as soon as possible", he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Mrs May said that although the delay is until 31 October, the United Kingdom can leave before then if MPs agree on her withdrawal deal.

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn welcomed comments from Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar suggesting he is ready to contemplate a role for the United Kingdom in helping decide EU trade policies if it remains in a customs union after Brexit.

France argued that a long delay risked serious damage to the European Union, an outcome Paris said was worse than no-deal.

Mr Corbyn responded with a tweet: "The Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has confirmed this evening that Labour's alternative plan for a new customs union with a United Kingdom say on future trade deals is credible and deliverable".

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