British PM Theresa May asks EU for Brexit delay until June 30
EU official reportedly wants 1-year 'flextension' so Britain doesn't crash out of bloc
British Prime Minister Theresa May is requesting that the deadline for her country to leave the European Union be extended until June 30.
In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday, May said that "the United Kingdom proposes that this period should end on 30 June, 2019."
EU leaders agreed late last month to prolong the Brexit date from March 29 until April 12, unless May could push their mutually agreed divorce deal through Parliament.
Meanwhile, Tusk has urged EU member states to offer Britain a flexible extension of up to a year to make sure the nation doesn't crash out of the bloc in a chaotic and costly way.
Two EU officials, who requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to disclose information before it was made public, said that Tusk wants a one-year "flextension," and for it to be approved at next Wednesday's EU summit.
Any extension to the deadline will need unanimous approval from the 27 remaining EU nations. French President Emmanuel Macron has thus far seemed cautious about giving Britain more time, saying the EU cannot be held hostage by Britain's political deadlock over Brexit.
Labour 'disappointed' with talks
Within Britain, Opposition Labour Party officials say they are "disappointed" with the government's stance in delicate talks aimed at finding a Brexit compromise that both major parties could back.
The party said in a statement that "the government has not offered real change or compromise" in talks this week.
The negotiations started after May asked Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn to meet with her to seek a way forward.
In the statement, Labour called on May to "come forward with genuine changes to her deal in an effort to find an alternative that can win support in Parliament and bring the country together."
A spokesperson for May's office said Friday her government is ready to hold more talks with Labour over the weekend.
"The government is determined to work constructively to deliver the Brexit people voted for, and avoid participation in the European Parliamentary elections," he said in a statement.
Labour seeks a softer Brexit that would keep Britain in a customs union with the European Union after it leaves the bloc.
There are also concerns in Europe that some British politicians who want to provoke a "no-deal" Brexit might try to make trouble from inside the bloc — a course that Conservative MP and outspoken Brexit advocate Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested Friday.
If a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU we should be as difficult as possible. We could veto any increase in the budget, obstruct the putative EU army and block Mr Macron’s integrationist schemes.—@Jacob_Rees_Mogg
Brexit backer and former leader of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage, who has long ridiculed Europe's institutions, also said he would campaign in European Parliament elections.
The complex manoeuvring comes as Britain's Parliament considers legislation designed to prevent a "no-deal" departure from the EU currently set for April 12.
There are concerns that an abrupt departure could lead to economic slowdown and a breakdown in food and medical supplies as border checks and tariffs are added overnight.
Britain's upper House of Lords is set to resume debate on the measure Monday. It was endorsed earlier by the lower House of Commons, passing by just one vote.
'No stone unturned'
A delay would mean that the U.K. needs to take part in the May 23-26 European elections — something which May has long argued against but said in her letter that Britain will make contingency plans to participate in if no Brexit deal is reached in the interim.
May said she is making these preparations, even though she believes it's not in Britain's interest or the European Union's interest for Britain to take part in the elections because it is a departing member state.
May said she "accepts" the EU position that if Britain hasn't left the 28-nation bloc by May 23, it will have a legal obligation to take part in the elections.
The prime minister said she still hopes to reach a compromise agreement that could take Britain out of the EU before that time.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said no one wants a lengthy delay to his country's departure from the EU and that May is "leaving no stone unturned" to break the Brexit impasse.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Group of Seven foreign ministers' meeting in the French Atlantic resort of Dinard, Hunt said a drawn-out exit would be "a bad outcome all round" for Britain and the EU.
"I don't think the EU member states want a long extension. We certainly don't want a long extension," he said.
While acknowledging roadblocks in the process, Hunt said, "Britain is not dragging its feet," and that the impasse over the past few months was a function of the fact that no party has a majority in Parliament.
With files from Reuters