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Theresa May requests Brexit extension to June 30

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British Prime Minister Theresa May seeks to delay Brexit until June 30 to avoid a chaotic withdrawal from the European Union in one week, but a key leader of the bloc suggested an even longer pause in the difficult divorce proceedings.

The question over timing is vital because Britain is set to leave the EU without a withdrawal deal in place on April 12 unless an agreement is reached at a Brussels summit set to take place two days earlier.

In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, May asked for an extension until June 30 and agreed to make contingency plans to take part in European Parliament elections on May 23-26 if necessary.

Tusk proposed a longer time frame. He urged the 27 remaining EU nations to offer the UK a flexible extension of up to a year to make sure the nation doesn’t crash out of the bloc in a chaotic and costly way.

British Prime Minister Theresa May seeks to delay Brexit until June 30 to avoid a chaotic withdrawal from the European Union in one week, but a key leader of the bloc suggested an even longer pause in the difficult divorce proceedings.

The question over timing is vital because Britain is set to leave the EU without a withdrawal deal in place on April 12 unless an agreement is reached at a Brussels summit set to take place two days earlier.

In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, May asked for an extension until June 30 and agreed to make contingency plans to take part in European Parliament elections on May 23-26 if necessary.

Tusk proposed a longer time frame. He urged the 27 remaining EU nations to offer the UK a flexible extension of up to a year to make sure the nation doesn’t crash out of the bloc in a chaotic and costly way.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Group of Seven foreign ministers’ meeting in the French Atlantic resort of Dinard, Hunt said a drawn-out exit would be “a bad outcome all round” for Britain and the EU.

He said: “I don’t think the EU member states want a long extension. We certainly don’t want a long extension.”

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While acknowledging road blocks in the process, Hunt said “Britain is not dragging its feet” and that the impasse over the past few months was a function of the fact that no party has a majority in Parliament.

The German government is welcoming Britain’s acknowledgement that a longer delay to Brexit would require the UK to participate in European Parliament elections.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, wouldn’t comment on her government’s position on those proposals. But he said it is “important” May “recognises that, with such an extension to June 30 … Britain must make preparations to participate in the European election” in May.

Outspoken Brexit advocate Jacob Rees-Mogg is suggesting that a long delay to Britain’s departure from the European Union would give Britain plenty of time to cause trouble for fellow EU members.

In a tweet, Rees-Mogg said “if a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU, we should be as difficult as possible”.

The Conservative Party lawmaker suggests using Britain’s position to veto any EU budget increases, block the establishment of an EU army, and make it impossible for French President Emmanuel Macron to push further EU integration.

He tweeted after an EU leader suggested a long Brexit delay may be the best course.

Brexit backer Nigel Farage also said he would campaign in European Parliament elections set for late May if Britain takes part, as he expects will happen.

Two EU officials, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorised to disclose information before it was made public, said that Tusk wants a one-year “Flextension” and get it approved at next Wednesday’s EU summit.

Such a move would mean that the UK needs to take part in the May 23-26 European elections, something which the UK prime minister has long argued against.

Any extension to the deadline will need unanimous approval from the 27 remaining EU nations. French President Emmanuel Macron has thus far seemed cautious about giving Britain more time, saying the EU cannot be held hostage by Britain’s political deadlock over Brexit.

The complex maneuvering comes as Britain’s Parliament considers legislation designed to prevent a “no-deal” departure from the EU currently set for April 12.

There are concerns that an abrupt departure could lead to economic slowdown and a breakdown in food and medical supplies as border checks and tariffs are added overnight.

Britain’s upper House of Lords is set to resume debate on the measure Monday. It was endorsed earlier by the lower House of Commons by just one vote.

EU leaders agreed late last month to prolong the Brexit date from March 29 until April 12, unless May could push their mutually agreed divorce deal through Parliament.

The Europeans would prefer that Britain don’t take part in the European Parliament elections if it is going to leave. April 12 is the last day for Britain to signal whether it will field candidates.

May said in her letter that Britain is reluctantly ready to begin preparations for the European elections if no Brexit deal is reached in the interim.

She said she is making these preparations even though she believes it is not in Britain’s interest or the EU’s interest for Britain to take part in the elections because it is a departing member state.

May says she “accepts” the EU position that if Britain has not left the 28-nation bloc by May 23 it will have a legal obligation to take part in the elections.

The prime minister says she is still hopeful of reaching a compromise agreement that could take Britain out of the EU before that time.

May says it is “frustrating” that Britain hasn’t yet resolved the situation. Her withdrawal plan, agreed with the EU over more than two years of delicate negotiations, has been rejected by Parliament three times, leading to the current political and legal impasse.

She is now seeking a compromise in a series of talks with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his deputies with hopes of winning opposition backing for a new divorce plans.

If that doesn’t work, May plans a series of votes in Parliament to see if a majority-backed plan can emerge.

Ideas being discussed include keeping Britain in a customs union with the EU after it leaves the bloc, as well as the possibility of a second referendum.

There is fierce opposition from Conservative Party Brexit-backer to these options.

Britain voted by a 52 per cent to 48 per cent margin in 2016 to leave the bloc.

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