Europe

British PM will call for a short delay to Brexit: report

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The British Prime Minister will ask for a short delay to Brexit when she writes to EU President Donald Tusk ahead of an EU summit on Thursday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, frustrated with MPs' indecision, will ask Brussels on Wednesday for a short delay to Brexit, the BBC has reported, citing a Downing Street official.

With lawmakers deadlocked over the way forward on Britain's 2016 referendum decision to leave the European Union - scheduled to take place in just nine days' time - May will ask for a short delay, the BBC said.

Mrs May "won’t be asking for a long extension," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "There is a case for giving parliament a bit more time to agree a way forward."

"But the people of this country have been waiting nearly three years now," the source said. "They are fed up with parliament’s failure to take a decision and the PM shares their frustration." 

Brexit
Brexit protests continue outside the Houses of Parliament.
AAP

Exasperated European leaders are demanding London tell them clearly what it wants, warning that the risk still remains that Britain could crash out of the bloc on March 29, ending its 46-year membership without formal arrangements.

Mrs May will write to EU President Donald Tusk with a plan for delaying Brexit beyond March 29, her spokesman said, admitting the parliamentary deadlock had reached crisis levels. 

The letter will be sent before May heads to a Brussels summit on Thursday, where she has already promised to seek what could be a lengthy postponement of Britain's exit from the European Union. 

A decision unlikely

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday it was unlikely the EU would reach any decision on Brexit at this week's summit, adding that another gathering in Brussels may be necessary next week.

With just nine days left until Britain's scheduled exit from the EU, Juncker told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that the remaining 27 members states' hands were tied until the political indecision in London was resolved.

"As long as we don't know what Britain could say yes to, no decision can be taken on our side either," he said.

Theresa May had hoped to persuade MPs before then to back the divorce agreement she has struck with the EU, but her plan to hold a fresh vote was dramatically blocked by the speaker of the House of Commons. 

But she said that if MPs backed her deal this week, it might only be a short delay to ratify the text. 

However, this plan was scuppered on Monday when Speaker John Bercow delivered a surprise ruling that she could not keep bringing her deal back to MPs without changes. 

Pro-Brexit newspapers condemned Bercow as the "Brexit Destroyer". 

Talks continue

Theresa May had been by no means certain of getting her deal through parliament this week, as many Brexit-supporting MPs believe it keeps Britain too closely aligned to the EU. 

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., waded into the debate Tuesday, writing in the British Daily Telegraph newspaper that May's latest plan to delay Brexit signalled "that democracy in the UK is all but dead". 

Talks continue with the aim of persuading MPs in May's Conservative party and their Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to back the text. 

There is speculation too that any EU deal she strikes on delaying Brexit might be enough of a change to persuade Bercow to allow another vote on it next week. 

A file image of Speaker John Bercow addressing the House of Commons
PM Theresa May will try to delay Brexit after the Speaker John Bercow stymied a third parliamentary vote.
AAP

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "I will fight to the last hour of the deadline on March 29 for an orderly exit." 

But an aide to French President Emmanuel Macron warned: "An extension is not for certain or automatic." 

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair called for a delay of 9-12 months, telling the BBC: "Whatever you have by way of extension, make it count and make it count by having a plan for it that allows Parliament to reach a conclusive opinion on the central Brexit question - soft or hard?" 

Only deal on the table 

The speaker's ruling earlier this week added further drama and complexity to an already chaotic Brexit process that has exposed deep rifts in parliament. 

MPs still cannot agree how to implement the 2016 referendum, reflecting how voters remain divided almost three years after they voted 52 to 48 percent for Brexit. 

The Prime Minister continues to insist that her agreement, covering citizens' rights, Britain's financial settlement, plans for the Irish border and for a post-Brexit transition period, is a good compromise. 

She sought and obtained clarifications on the operation of the so-called Irish border "backstop" to appease some of her MPs but some still want more. 

Several Conservative MPs suggested that following Bercow's ruling, Mrs May must now return to the negotiating table, even at this late stage. 

However, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay warned: "It is the only deal on the table from the EU - the EU have been consistent on that. 

"Either we back the prime minister's deal and get Brexit over the line or we risk either a softer Brexit or no Brexit at all."

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