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May tries to save Brexit plan ahead of EU summit

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By AFP


British Prime Minister Theresa May will write to EU President Donald Tusk with a plan for delaying Brexit beyond March 29, her spokesman said, admitting the parliamentary deadlock had reached crisis levels.

The letter will be sent before May heads to a Brussels summit on Thursday, where she has already promised to seek what could be a lengthy postponement of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

May had hoped to persuade MPs before then to back the divorce agreement she has struck with the EU, but her plan to hold a fresh vote was dramatically blocked by the speaker of the House of Commons.

Exasperated European leaders are now demanding London tell them clearly what it wants, warning that the risk still remains that Britain could crash out of the bloc in 10 days, ending its 46-year membership without formal arrangements.

Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator, warned on Tuesday that any extension of the Brexit talks would have “political and economic costs” for the remaining 27 EU states.

“A long extension… should be linked to something new, a new element or new political process,” Barnier told reporters, urging May to secure the backing of the British parliament for any request.

“How can we ensure that, at the end of a possible extension, we are not back in the same situation as today?” he asked.

May’s letter to Tusk would come by Wednesday, her spokesman said, as reports spoke of her seeking a 12-month delay. She will also face questions from MPs in Parliament on Wednesday.

However, Britain’s ambassador in Prague Nick Archer said Tuesday that London was also wary of a lengthy extension with European Parliament elections due to be held across the bloc in May.

“The government does not want to have to go into European elections again, does not want to go anywhere near the multi-annual financial framework,” he told the CTK Czech press agency, referring to difficult and lengthy EU budget negotiations.