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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

British PM urges France and Germany to grant second Brexit delay

Theresa May travelled to Berlin and Paris for last ditch talks before a crucial EU summit

The European Union, British and German flags fly outside the Chancellery prior to a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May. Getty Images
The European Union, British and German flags fly outside the Chancellery prior to a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May. Getty Images

British Prime Minister Theresa May held talks with the leaders of Germany and France on Tuesday in a bid to persuade the European Union to grant her a second Brexit delay.

Mrs May met Angela Merkel in Berlin in the morning before travelling to Paris to meet Emmanuel Macron ahead of an emergency EU summit on Brexit scheduled for Wednesday.

The UK leader has requested the EU grant her a delay until June 30 to stop the country crashing out of the bloc without a deal on April 12.

On Monday evening, Britain's parliament passed a bill, which forces Mrs May to request an extension rather than leaving with no-deal.

But all 27-member states of the bloc must agree to any extension with France's president indicating he could veto a further delay unless a "credible" reason is put forward by Mrs May.

Before the talks began, France's finance minister Bruno Le Maire called for Britain to present a "clear" plan as to why she needs more time.

"There is need for clarity on why the delay and how it will in the end facilitate an agreement," Mr Le Maire told Franceinfo television.

While a senior German official insisted that granting any delay should come with strict conditions attached.

"So far absolutely nothing has changed," said Germany's deputy foreign minister Michael Roth, adding that the situation was very frustrating.

European Council president Donald Tusk has recommended that Britain is given a one year extension, which could be ended early if a divorce deal is agreed.

Having failed to get the deal she spent two years negotiating with Brussels through the UK parliament, Mrs May last week began talks with the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to try and break the impasse.

But so far the discussions have failed to find a consensus.

Labour wants to keep a customs arrangement with the EU, something Mrs May promised to end in the Conservative Party's election manifesto in 2017.

The decision to reach out to Labour has enraged hard Brexiters in the Conservative Party, who have accused the prime minister of "betrayal".

Many - including the veteran eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash - are also furious at the prospect of having to take part in the upcoming European Parliament elections, scheduled for May 23.

"All over the country there is a firestorm about the fact we could be involved in European elections," Sir Bill said in the House of Commons.

British ministers said on Monday that they were reluctantly making preparations for the UK to take part in the elections but added that participation was not inevitable.

"The government's policy is to leave the EU with a deal… before 23 May so that the UK does not need to participate in the European Parliament elections," a government spokesman said on Monday.

Updated: April 9, 2019 05:48 PM

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