EU leaders were set to meet in Brussels on Thursday to consider a request by British Prime Minister Theresa May to delay Britain’s departure from the European Union until June 30.
Britain is due to leave the EU in just over a week, on March 29. However, May has failed so far to win parliamentary approval for the Brexit divorce deal she negotiated with Brussels to ensure a smooth departure.
May wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday, pledging to put the withdrawal agreement to a further vote. But the procedures to leave the EU “will clearly not be completed” before March 29, May said.
She requested the extra time to ratify the withdrawal deal and consult with the opposition, with the timetable being “inevitably uncertain.”
Tusk replied that a short Brexit extension should be “possible” if parliament approves the withdrawal deal, while questioning its length.
The European Commission has insisted that a Brexit delay beyond May 23 would require Britain to take part in EU elections – a scenario that May wants to avoid.
The EU would otherwise face “serious legal and political risks” and uncertainty, the commission warned in an internal assessment, urging leaders to choose between an extension until May 23 and a longer one running until the end of 2019 or beyond.
May will brief her counterparts Thursday before they discuss her request. No final decision is expected before parliament votes again on the Brexit deal.
The two-day EU summit will also include discussions on issues such as relations with China, disinformation and economic policy.