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Theresa May Makes Clear Brexit Request to Wary EU

Prime minister asks EU to delay March 29 deadline until June 30
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 20, 2019 9:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – Theresa May formally asked the European Union on Wednesday to postpone Britain's departure from the bloc—due in nine days—until June 30. But a frustrated EU has warned it could keep Britain waiting for an answer. In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, May said the Brexit process "clearly will not be completed before 29 March, 2019," the date fixed in law two years ago for Britain's departure. The AP reports she said she wanted to set out her reasons for the June 30 request to EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. Opposition politicians and pro-EU members of May's Conservative government had urged a longer extension, saying a delay of just a few months could leave Britain once again facing a cliff-edge "no-deal" Brexit this summer.

Withdrawing without a deal could mean huge disruption for businesses and people in the UK and the 27 remaining EU countries. But a long extension would infuriate the pro-Brexit wing of May's divided party and would require Britain to participate in May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament. May said that would be unacceptable. "As prime minister I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30," she said in the House of Commons, noting a longer delay would result in Parliament spending "endless hours contemplating its navel on Brexit." A delay to Britain's withdrawal requires the approval of all 27 remaining EU countries—and that's not guaranteed. Any delay that requires Britain to take part in European parliamentary elections would be a major headache for the bloc, and some EU leaders want a short extension to end by May 23, when voting begins. (Read more Brexit stories.)

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