UK's Theresa May asks EU for Brexit delay until June 30

The request comes hours after European Council President Tusk proposed to postpone Brexit day by up to a year.

    In her letter, May said she wanted to make sure that Britain left the bloc in an orderly manner [File: Reuters]
    In her letter, May said she wanted to make sure that Britain left the bloc in an orderly manner [File: Reuters]

    Prime Minister Theresa May has asked the European Union to delay Britain's departure from the bloc until June 30, with the extension ending earlier if parliament approves her EU divorce deal.  

    "The United Kingdom proposes that (the extension) should end on June 30, 2019," May wrote in a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday.

    "If the parties are able to ratify before this date, the government proposes that the period should be terminated earlier," added May.

    Downing Street released May's letter moments after an EU source told BBC that Tusk was proposing to postpone Brexit day by up to a year, also pending parliament's approval of the EU-UK withdrawal agreement.

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    The current deadline is April 12, which has already been pushed back once from March 29 because of the UK parliament's failure on three occasions to back the deal May signed with the other 27 EU leaders in December.

    In her letter, May said she wanted to make sure that Britain left the bloc after 46 years in an orderly manner, with an agreement that could help unwind intricate political, security, diplomatic and economic ties.

    "The government's policy has always been and remains to leave the European Union in an orderly way, and without undue delay," May wrote.

    "The government agrees that leaving with a deal is the best outcome."

    May also alluded to the upcoming EU elections, hoping that a deal will be reached before then. 

    "The government will want to agree a timetable for ratification that allows the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union before 23 May 2019 and therefore cancel the European Parliament elections, but will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should this not prove possible," she said.

    Speaking from London, Al Jazeera's Nadim Baba said: "Theresa May seems to be thinking along the same line [as Tusk], but with a crucial difference. Her letter includes a request for an extension until June 30. It's after that deadline which the UK would have to take part in the European Parliament elections."

    Baba also said that it "was far from certain whether the European Union will actually go for that short extension."

    Earlier this week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK will not get any short-term extensions for Brexit unless its parliament backs May's deal.

    Conservative-Labour talks 

    Referring to talks between May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn which are expected to resume on Friday, Baba said the prime minister is expected to release a letter to the Labour party in the coming hours outlining her position.

    "One possibility is that she'll say if we do strike a deal, one of the options could be putting the idea to parliament next week, possibly taking the deal to another referendum, what they are calling a confirmatory vote.

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    "One big question is this idea of a people's vote, a referendum, which is extremely divisive within the Labour Party. Some members are saying anything else but putting it back to the people, would break party policy. Others, who have the ear of Jeremy Corbyn, are warning that that could really harm their chances in any forthcoming election," explained Baba.

    During the two-hour session on Wednesday, May and Corbyn agreed to a programme of cross-party talks to seek a mutually acceptable agreement on the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

    Corbyn described the meeting as "useful but inconclusive", saying in a TV interview that there had not been "as much change as he expected" in May's stance and that she would have to come up with something to make her deal palatable to MPs.

    "So many unknowns still, but we know that the UK will have to seek an extension if it is to avoid leaving the EU without a deal at the end of next week. The timetable couldn't be tighter," added Baba. 


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies