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UK's May asks EU to delay Brexit until June 30

HO / PRU / AFP | Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May listening to a question from the opposition benches during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) question and answer session in the House of Commons in London on March 20, 2019.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday she had written to European Council President Donald Tusk to delay Brexit until June 30. But the Commission opposes an extension past the May 23 European election date, according to reports.

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"As prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than the 30th of June," May told a rowdy session of parliament.

"I have therefore this morning written to President Tusk, the president of the European Council, informing him that the UK seeks an extension to the Article 50 period until the 30th June," she said.

The announcement came just nine days before the March 29 exit date that May set two years ago by serving the formal Article 50 divorce papers.

May also informed parliament she would be preparing for a third vote on her Brexit deal following two resounding parliamentary defeats. "The government intends to bring forward proposals for a third meaningful vote. If that vote is passed, the extension will give the House [of Commons] time to consider the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. If not, the House will have to decide how to proceed."

The divorce deal May agreed with the EU in November has been defeated twice by parliament though May hopes to put the deal to another vote, possibly as early as next week.

European Commission opposes extension past May 23

However the European Commission opposes extending British membership of the EU to June 30, according to an EU document seen by Reuters.

In a note on the Brexit process reviewed by the Commission at its weekly meeting on Wednesday, officials wrote that leaders meeting May at a summit on Thursday faced a "binary" choice of a short delay of Brexit from March 29 to before May 23 or a long delay to at least the end of this year, with Britain obliged to hold an election on May 23 for European parliament lawmakers.

"Any extension offered to the United Kingdom should either last until 23 May 2019 or should be significantly longer and require European elections," the document said. "This is the only way of protecting the functioning of the EU institutions and their ability to take decisions."

Brexit deadlock:''France seems to be against extension'

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU had done much to accommodate Britain and can go no further.

"There will be no renegotiations, no new negotiations, no additional guarantees in addition to those already given," Juncker told Germany's Deutschlandfunk radio. "We have intensively moved towards Britain, there can be no more."

For his part, Tusk adopted a softer tone, telling reporters on Wednesday that EU leaders could approve a short delay to Brexit if British MPs finally approve the withdrawal deal they have twice rejected: "In the light of the consultations I have conducted over the past days, I believe a short extension will be possible but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons," he said.

France, meanwhile, showed a markedly tougher stance on Wednesday.

"A situation in which Mrs May was not able to present to the European Council sufficient guarantees of the credibility of her strategy would lead to the extension request being dismissed and opting for a no-deal exit," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the National Assembly.

The delay, nearly three years since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, leaves the Brexit divorce uncertain with options including leaving with May's deal, a longer delay, a disruptive exit, or even another referendum.

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.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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