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EU Backs Brexit Delay But Only With Deal

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The EU will only agree to a short delay to Brexit if MPs approve the current withdrawal agreement next week, Theresa May has been told.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said an extension, requested by the prime minister on Wednesday, was possible.

Mrs May has written to Mr Tusk requesting a Brexit delay to 30 June, saying she needed more time to get her deal agreed by MPs and passed into law.

The PM will be making a statement from Downing Street at 20:15 GMT.

Mr Tusk said he believed all 27 other EU members, who must sign off on the extension, would agree but it depended on a “positive” vote in the House of Commons.

The length of any extension was open for discussion, he told reporters in Brussels.

The UK is due to leave the EU next Friday, on 29 March.

While a delay until 30 June “had its merits”, Mr Tusk also suggested there were “political and legal” questions about delaying Brexit beyond 23 May – when European elections will be held.

While the current withdrawal agreement could not be changed, he suggested additional legal assurances the EU gave Mrs May in Strasbourg last week could be formalised to help get the backing of MPs.

Mr Tusk spoke to Mrs May before his statement.

Meanwhile, an emergency debate took place in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, with Labour pressing for further detail about the PM’s intentions and demanding that any delay is long enough to allow MPs to “break the impasse and find a way forward”.

The prime minister is meeting MPs from opposition parties to discuss her letter.

But ahead of the meeting, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Lib Dem leader Vince Cable MP, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts and the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas released a joint statement, calling for a longer extension and for Parliament to sit continuously “until it can reach a decision”.

At a highly charged Prime Minister’s Questions earlier, Mrs May said MPs had “indulged themselves on Europe for too long” and voters “deserved better”.

She said she had rejected calls for a longer delay to Brexit because she wanted to avoid the UK taking part in European elections in May, which she said would be “unacceptable” three years after voting to leave the EU.

“It would be a failure to deliver on the referendum decision this House said it would deliver,” she told the Commons.

But she added: “As prime minister I could not consider a further delay beyond 30 June.”

This was seen by some as an indication that Mrs May would resign rather than seek a further delay.

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