Theresa May meets Merkel with Brexit delay request

Last Updated: Wed, Apr 10, 2019 11:05 hrs
Theresa May (AP photo)

Berlin: UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel in another last-minute Brexit trip, with Britain due to leave the EU in three days.

May met Merkel in Berlin and will meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris later to urge them to back her request to again delay Brexit till June 30, the BBC reported.

She was also trying to lay the groundwork ahead of an extraordinary European Council meeting on Wednesday that will focus on the UK's rupture from the group. The PM and Merkel agreed "on the importance of ensuring Britain's orderly withdrawal", said a statement.

However, the meeting had a slightly delayed start as Merkel was not expecting May to arrive at the hour she did, and the British PM had to walk up the red carpet by herself, Efe news reported.

Merkel appeared at the entrance shortly after and apologized for the delay.

"Ahead of EU Council tomorrow, the leaders discussed the UK's request for an extension of Article 50 to June 30 with the option to bring this forward if a deal is ratified earlier," a Downing Street spokesperson said, in reference to the Article of the Lisbon Treaty that had set in motion a two-year period of negotiations.

"The leaders agreed on the importance of ensuring Britain's orderly withdrawal from the European Union," the spokesperson added.

Steffen Seibert, German government spokesman, shared an image of the two leaders in conversation at the meeting and, at the beginning of the encounter, said: "There are good reasons to talk."

Merkel is one of the European Union leaders who has been seemingly most receptive to an extension to the Brexit period.

The UK was initially meant to leave the EU on March 29, but it was extended to either May 22 or April 12, depending on whether or not May, whose government is disadvantaged by a parliamentary minority, was able to get approval for her withdrawal bill.

It has been voted down three times by the House of Commons.

As agreed with the EU, May must offer new strategy or the UK risked crashing out without a deal on April 12.

To that end, the UK leader has decided to collaborate with the opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, given the lack of support in her own Tory ranks and in the Northern Irish DUP.

The delay will have to be backed by all 27 remaining EU countries.

However, Michel Barnier, EU Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, said any extension to the negotiation process would depend on what aims the UK was suggesting, apparently leaving the door open to a longer delay.

"Any extension should serve a purpose. 'No-deal' will never be the EU's decision. In order to avoid 'no-deal', the UK needs to agree to a deal," he said.