Europe

May asks for Brexit delay until June 30

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British Prime Minister Theresa May has written to European Council President Donald Tusk asking the European Union to push Britain's exit back until June 30.

Prime Minister Theresa May has requested a three-month delay to Brexit after her failure to get a deal ratified by parliament left the UK's divorce from the European Union in turmoil.

Nearly three years after Britain voted to leave the EU and nine days before the formal exit deadline, British politicians are still arguing over how, when or even if the world's fifth largest economy should leave the bloc it first joined 1973.

When May set the March 29 exit date two years ago by serving the formal Article 50 divorce papers, she declared there would be "no turning back", but parliament's refusal to ratify the withdrawal deal she agreed with the EU has thrust her government into crisis.

Now, May has written to European Council President Donald Tusk to ask for a delay until June 30.

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

"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.

May said she planned to ask parliament to vote a third time on her departure deal, which MPs have already voted down twice. She didn't say when the vote would happen.

The opposition Labour Party said that by choosing a short delay May was forcing British MPs to decide between accepting a deal they have already rejected twice or crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Pro-Brexit members of May's Conservative Party are opposed to a longer delay because they fear this could mean that Brexit might never happen.

For its part, the EU said any extension should either be until May 23 or "significantly longer" and require Britain to take part in European elections in May. The prime minister said it was not in Britain's interests to take part in European elections.

An EU Commission document seen by Reuters said the EU should offer Britain just one extension as multiple delays would leave the bloc in limbo.

Early support for May's request for an extension came from Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

EU leaders are expected to discuss May's request for a Brexit delay at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

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."

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