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Questions and opposition: EU member states respond to British PM's request to delay Brexit

Questions and opposition: EU member states respond to British PM's request to delay Brexit

FILE PHOTO: An anti-Brexit protester is seen among EU flags, as Brexit wrangles continue, outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

LONDON: Various leaders from European Union (EU) member states responded on Friday (Apr 5) to British Prime Minister Theresa May's request to the bloc to delay Britain's departure until Jun 30.

"The United Kingdom proposes that (the extension) should end on June 30 2019. If the parties are able to ratify before this date, the government proposes that the period should be terminated earlier," Mrs May wrote in a letter to EU Council president Donald Tusk on Friday.

But Donald Tusk, who chairs EU summits, has proposed a longer Brexit postponement of one year for Britain's feuding politicians to agree and ratify a plan, EU officials said.

Any such extension would still require unanimous approval of the other 27 EU countries.

NETHERLANDS, GERMANY SEEK CLARIFICATIONS

In response to Mrs May's proposal, both Germany and the Netherlands said that many questions about Brexit remain unanswered. 

"It is a difficult situation. There are I think many questions still to clarify in London," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. 

Dutch premier Mark Rutte said that Mrs May's request "doesn't answer" the EU's key questions about London's plans.

Mr Rutte said Mrs May's letter seeking the extension "raises many questions" and there will have to be "intense discussions" ahead of a crucial summit of European leaders next Wednesday that will decide on the issue.

"The plan was that the British would explain what they wanted from the EU," Mr Rutte told a weekly press conference.

"A letter was sent today which, as far as I am concerned, doesn't answer this request (from the EU for more information). I hope it will be possible to give the answers to these questions."

"We hope London will provide more clarity before Wednesday," he said, adding that there would now have to be "intense discussions on the telephone in coming days, and at the European Council (summit)."

"The ball is not here in The Netherlands, or in Paris or Berlin. The ball really is in London."

READ: Commentary: The depressing costs of Brexit to Britain

NO EXTENSION WITHOUT CONCRETE PLAN: FRANCE

France took a firmer stance on the issue by reiterating its opposition to Britain being granted an extension if it could not provide a "put forward a plan with clear and credible political backing", The Guardian reported, quoting France’s minister for European affairs, Amelie de Montchalin.

Another source from the French presidency had also earlier noted that it was "premature" to discuss any extension without a "a clear plan" that would justify pushing Brexit back again.

Mr Maas said an emergency summit meeting of EU leaders called for Apr 10 over Brexit would discuss how to respond to the request from London.

"We will come together with our European colleagues at the next council meeting and come to an opinion over the question of an extension and how long such an extension should be," he said.

As things stand, Britain is due to leave the European Union at midnight on Apr 12. The deadline has already been pushed back once from Mar 29 because of the UK parliament's failure on three occasions to agree on the deal Mrs May signed with the other 27 EU leaders in December.

If the House of Commons ratifies Mrs May's withdrawal agreement, Britain could leave before the year is up.

But if Britain is still a member when the bloc holds elections for the European Parliament on May 23, it will need to take part in the poll and send another batch of Members of the European Parliament to Strasbourg.

Source: AGENCIES/aa

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