Brexit: Donald Tusk says Westminster division means long delay

Oscar PerryApr 10, 2019

The letter from the top Eurocrat comes as Theresa May spends Tuesday in talks with the French President and German Chancellor in their respective capital cities ahead of Wednesday's special meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels.

A German government spokesman, however, dismissed the media report as "without any foundation" and the pound gave up gains to stand 0.2 percent lower at $1.3040.

European Union rules say that any extension to the Brexit deadline needs unanimity among the 27 other member states, and even if smaller member states would be hard-pressed to do it on their own, France has never shied away from being an European Union leader - even at the expense of Britain.

In the letter, which was released shortly after the UK Parliament's vote, Tusk said there was "little reason to believe" that May could persuade parliament to back a Brexit deal before the end of June, based on the fact that parliament has so far rejected May's Brexit plan three times. Mrs May met Mrs Merkel before flying on to Paris for talks withMacron this afternoon, where the French President will reportedly climb down from his No Deal threat but tell her Britain must leave by Christmas this year.

The Parliament is expected to vote Tuesday on May's proposed extension date of June 30.

Michael Roth, Germany's deputy foreign minister, said as he arrived at an European Union meeting in Luxembourg that "we are in a very, very frustrating situation here".

However, a French official said that the United Kingdom should not be able to negotiate Britain's future relationship with the European Union while inside the bloc. The country was originally supposed to leave on March 29.

"So far absolutely nothing has changed", Roth said.

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He explained that the extension should last exactly up to one year, as beyond this date the European Council would have to "decide unanimously on some key European projects".

Mrs May already wrote to EU Council President Donald Tusk on Friday, requesting an extension of Article 50 to 30 June with the option to bring this forward if a deal is ratified before that date.

"We have the question what role Britain wants to play" if such an extension is granted, she said.

It allows the government to seek any extension from May 22 onwards.

A short delay to prepare for a no-deal, possibly to May 22, is an option France has considered if Britain can not set out a roadmap to an orderly exit.

Brexiteer Mark Francois ridiculed the Prime Minister's meeting with the Labour leader and said it had angered and disillusioned Tory MPs, councillors and activists.

"But they'll also want to see a clear plan in terms of how an extension can deliver the result that we all want, which is a managed and sensible Brexit".

A party spokeswoman said: "We had further detailed and wide-ranging talks with Cabinet ministers and officials today". He said people involved "are telling me that the process is being undertaken in a genuine and honest way from both sides".

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