Tusk suggests Brexit delay of up to year

Theresa May and Angela Merkel

Theresa May meets the leaders of the remaining European Union 27 later on Wednesday to press her case for a further extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process to June 30 to allow her more time to get a deal through Parliament.

The hope among Labour MPs is that asking the European Union for a Brexit delay - as the Prime Minister has been compelled to do by the Cooper bill - will avoid "no deal" on the current exit date of Friday 12th April. The Prime Minister doesn't want to see a long extension.

"I don't want to see a long extension".

Britain was originally due to leave the European Union on March 29 - a date chosen by the United Kingdom government itself when prime minister Theresa May started the two-year clock on Article 50, the legal mechanism under which a member state can negotiate its withdrawal from European Union membership. "That is why the request today is to June 30 in order that we can leave as soon as possible", he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Over half of Britons are in favour of any final deal or agreement reached by the government being put to a public referendum.

MPs, meanwhile, have embarked on an unprecedented series of "indicative votes", with back-benchers taking over control of Parliament's business from the government.

The UK would be expected to refrain from using its veto on the MFF but senior diplomats said there would be a way around the problem if the British government went "rogue".

"I believe we should also discuss an alternative, longer extension".

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Tusk also floated the possibility of what he called "a flexible extension" which would last only as long as necessary but would not stretch for longer than one year as it would affect some key European projects.

May's chances of ratifying the withdrawal agreement she signed in Brussels in November previous year rely on either rebel MPs in her Conservative party and her Northern Irish allies backing her deal at the fourth time of asking - or a compromise with the opposition.

"The UK would be free to leave whenever it is ready".

May needs to win backing on Wednesday for a delayed Brexit from an emergency meeting of the EU Council, made up of the leaders of the remaining 27 member states.

She met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin for talks ahead of the summit.

The suggestions last night were that the EU27 is open to granting the extension, but only if she is able to persuade them that she has a credible, workable plan to finally get the Withdrawal Agreement supported by Parliament.

In a statement after the Conservative and Labour talks ended for the day, a Downing Street spokesman said: "We have had further productive and wide-ranging talks this afternoon, and the parties have agreed to meet again on Thursday once European Council has concluded".

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