Merkel warns European Union is likely to agree to lengthy Brexit delay

Erika Holt
April 11, 2019

"It could well be that it is a longer extension than has been requested by the British prime minister", Merkel told Germany's Bundestag lower house of parliament.

Macron fears "blackmail" by pro-Brexit Conservatives seeking to take over from May and is arguing that, to extend its membership beyond June, Britain must formally forswear its right to block key decisions taken by the other 27 member states, notably on the European Union budget and key executive appointments.

BBC News at Ten's Huw Edwards presents tonight's Brexit coverage from Brussels with contributions from political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Europe editor Katya Adler and special correspondent Ed Thomas.

If an extension is agreed, Brussels will portray it as a concession to Britain, with some members - particularly France - not keen to see the disruptive Brexit drama drag on much longer.

The Prime Minister, however, remains under intense pressure from Conservative MPs - already angry at the failure to leave on March 29 as planned - who oppose any further delay.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has delivered a blow to UK PM Theresa May, after insisting a "longer" Brexit extension than the one asked for by the beleaguered Tory leader may be required.

"The question isn't whether there will be an extension but for how long and under what conditions", a senior diplomat said. "And of course a lot of people, maybe even half the population, don't want to leave at all", he said.

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"If we are going through that process of trying to get Parliament to support a deal to find a way of breaking this deadlock, then Theresa May continues to be right person to lead us through that process".

"We should all be very clear what this extension would be for - it is all about making sure we leave the European Union in a timely and orderly way and that means leaving with a deal", government solicitor-general Robert Buckland said ahead of the vote.

"I've asked for an extension to June 30, but what is important is that the extension enables us to leave at the point at which we ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, so we could leave on May 22 and start to build our brighter future".

Mr Tusk tweeted: "EU27 has agreed an extension of Article 50".

"The UK would be free to leave whenever it is ready". Importantly, a long extension would provide more certainty and predictability by removing the threat of constantly shifting cliff-edge dates.

But as May prepared to lay out her plan to her 27 colleagues, other officials suggested they would indeed be open to pushing back Brexit for several months if Britain undertakes to hold European elections in late May.

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