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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

EU to limit Brexit extension to May 22

A petition calling for Brexit to be cancelled has been signed more than a million times

Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to convince EU leaders to agree to a short Brexit delay. AFP.
Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to convince EU leaders to agree to a short Brexit delay. AFP.

The EU could offer Britain a limited Brexit extension until May 22 if Parliament supports UK Prime Minister Theresa May's twice-rejected divorce deal.

Draft conclusions from a Brussels summit to consider London’s request for a short delay to Britain’s departure say it would not be possible to push back the Brexit date after the bloc's parliamentary elections, due on May 23.

Mrs May is hoping to convince EU leaders to agree to an extension of three months to the original departure date of March 29.

Any request to delay would have to be agreed to by the other 27 member states in the bloc.

Earlier on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Macron said a “no" vote in the UK Parliament for Mrs May’s Brexit plan would “directly guide everybody to a no deal, for sure”.

He was speaking as EU leaders gathered in Brussels for the high-stake summit.

MPs from Mrs May’s Conservative Party and the opposition, business leaders and hundreds of thousands of members of the public have vocally shown their fury at the prospect of no deal.

Mrs May has refused to support a long delay to Brexit, perhaps as much as two years, to the fury of many colleagues who believe she is caving into Conservative hardliners.

An online petition urging the government to cancel Brexit has gained more than 1 million signatures and crashed earlier in the day when it attracted so much traffic.

The petition went viral after a late-night speech by Mrs May contained a harsh warning to MPs to stop impeding the process.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “We must proceed with caution and, above all, until the last hour, do everything possible to ensure that Britain can leave the EU in an orderly way.”

Britain’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn was also in Brussels, for talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier where they discussed looking for a “constructive alternative” to Mrs May’s deal.

She is seeking a delay until June 30 so she can obtain acceptance of her deal and pass it into law.

It marks an embarrassing U-turn by Mrs May, who has always insisted that Britain would leave the EU on March 29, until it became clear that her deal in its current form would not make it through Parliament.

"A short extension gives us that opportunity to decide to leave the EU, to deliver on that result of that referendum and I sincerely hope that will be with a negotiated deal,” she said on arrival in Brussels.

Mrs May attracted the fury of MPs on Wednesday night during a speech to the public when she turned against parliamentarians, accusing them of holding up Brexit and being to blame for any no-deal repercussions.

Updated: March 22, 2019 02:45 AM

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