BRUSSELS: European Union leaders could decide to extend the Mar 29 deadline for Britain's exit from the EU if London provided a valid reason for such a request, the European Commission said on Wednesday (Jan 16).
"There has been no UK request for an extension. Should there be a UK request to extend setting out the reasons for such an extension it will be a matter for the EU27 to decide by unanimity," Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a regular news briefing.
Prime Minister Theresa May will try on Wednesday to forge consensus in parliament on a Brexit divorce agreement after the crushing defeat of her own deal left Britain's exit from the EU in disarray 10 weeks before it is due to leave.
May suffered the biggest government defeat in modern British history when the House of Commons rejected by 432 votes to 202 the deal she struck with Brussels last year after 18 months of negotiation.
The EU immediately warned that the vote raises the risk of a hugely disruptive "no deal" Brexit where Britain could sever ties with its biggest trading partner overnight.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged London to "clarify its intentions as soon as possible", while EU negotiator Michel Barnier said he "regretted profoundly the vote".
German Chancellor Merkel offered May some hope, saying "we still have time to negotiate but we're now waiting on what the prime minister proposes."
Ireland, the only EU member state with a land border with Britain, said it would now intensify preparations for a "disorderly Brexit", with foreign minister Simon Coveney calling on colleagues to "hold their nerve".