UK's May asks European Union for Brexit delay, but France's Macron says ‘premature’

Yvette Cooper has tabled a bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit

Yvette Cooper has tabled a bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit

An EU official signalled that Donald Tusk, the chairman of EU leaders, could be willing to offer even longer: up to a year for Britain's feuding politicians to agree and ratify a plan.

Some, like French President Emmanuel Macron, have said they want to hear a clear reason from May as to why Brexit should be delayed yet again - a move that would add to uncertainties weighing on business across the bloc.

A source in the presidency said earlier this week that France wanted at all costs to avoid an European Union summit "where the prime minister (May) arrives saying "Everything is still blocked, things will be a lot clearer in a month or two or three, give us more time".

After weeks of Brexit deadlock, with Theresa May's withdrawal agreement failing to win a majority in the House of Commons twice and once more without its political declaration, with not one single motion managing to muster a majority in a series of indicative votes, the government and opposition engaged in talks to try to end this stalemate.

The first minister said: "The sensible thing to do in my view, and it seems as if this might be the EU's view as well, is to have a longer extension to allow time for this issue to go back to the people in another referendum rather than continue to have these short-term cliff edges".

Mrs May will be in the House of Commons for Prime Minister's Question Time.

May said Britain would start preparing for European Parliament elections in case it is still a member of the bloc when they begin on May 23.

May has written to President of the European Council Donald Tusk to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline.

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"Outside our central scenario, we think the risks are skewed decisively in the direction of a longer Article 50 extension and a softer Brexit end-state than originally envisaged by Prime Minister May", they wrote.

"We could give the United Kingdom a year-long extension, automatically terminated once the Withdrawal Agreement has been accepted and ratified by the House of Commons", the official said. A short extension if possible, and a long one if necessary.

Mrs May's request for an extension to the Article 50 process will be considered at an emergency European Union summit on April 10, where it requires the unanimous agreement of the leaders of the remaining 27 member states. France in particular has signalled that it would not automatically give Britain whatever May sought.

The French diplomatic source called the extension idea premature and "clumsy".

Brexit talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn broke down last night as France warned that Britain risked crashing out of the European Union in a "disorderly manner".

The EU had given her an extension until April 12 and said it could be extended to May 22, but only if parliament agreed the withdrawal deal.

The health secretary's comments followed the opening round of talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn aimed at finding a possible Brexit compromise which the Labour leader described as "useful but inconclusive".

Labour too is divided. Any Brexit deal will break numerous promises made in the last referendum, cause real costs to our economy or to our sovereignty, and continue the chaos of endless negotiations as we seek to make sense of something that makes no sense for Britain.

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