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European Union split over delaying Brexit

In Parliament on Monday, when asked to rule out a postponement, May simply said that she’s “working to find a deal” so the UK “can and will leave the European Union on March 29.”

Bloomberg|
Jan 21, 2019, 11.33 PM IST
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Theresa May
In Parliament on Monday, when asked to rule out a postponement, May simply said that she’s “working to find a deal” so the UK “can and will leave the European Union on March 29.”
BRUSSELS: European Union governments disagree over how long they think the UK should delay Brexit, with some pushing for an extension of as much as a year, diplomats said. While some countries think the EU should offer Britain a generous period to negotiate a deal that will win the backing of Parliament, possibly after a second referendum, others oppose a postponement of any sort and want pressure to be put on the UK to accept a deal as soon as possible, according to four EU diplomats.

It’s up to the UK to request a delay and, so far, Prime Minister Theresa May has said she doesn’t intend to. But with the deal the government negotiated with the EU suffering the biggest House of Commons defeat in history last week and little sign there’s a majority in favor of any alternative, many officials on both sides believe keeping the UK in the bloc beyond its scheduled March 29 exit date is the only plausible way forward.

In Parliament on Monday, when asked to rule out a postponement, May simply said that she’s “working to find a deal” so the UK “can and will leave the European Union on March 29.”

Any extension needs unanimous approval from the EU’s remaining 27 countries. The EU shouldn’t just “extend the agony’’ of Brexit, Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak told reporters in Brussels on Monday. “If there is a good reason, then yes.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel — who is taking a more flexible approach on the timing of any extension — indicated on Saturday that she wants to help Britain secure an orderly exit. She said it’s the EU’s responsibility to help find a solution.

“We also have a responsibility to shape this separation process in a responsible way, so that people don’t look back in 50 years, shaking their heads, and say why weren't we in a position to make a compromise?” she said.

Elections to the European Parliament in May are the biggest obstacle to any extension.

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