LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing to ask the European Union for a short delay to the country’s divorce from the European Union.
A Downing Street official said May will write to EU leaders on Wednesday to formally request “a bit more time,” past the scheduled departure date of March 29. Parliament last week voted for a three-month delay to the end of June, but some EU leaders have suggested another two years might be necessary.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds told the BBC on Wednesday that a shorter delay is the right option.
“I think people are a bit tired of waiting for Parliament to get our act together and get the deal passed,” he said.
May’s troubles deepened when the speaker of the House of Commons ruled earlier this week that she can’t keep asking lawmakers to vote on the same divorce deal they have already rejected twice.
She is expected to make her request to the EU in writing later Wednesday, but a decision may not be quick. The head of the bloc’s executive branch said that European Union leaders are unlikely to agree to a delay at a summit this week.
Asked by Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio what May would need to secure a delay this week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker replied that “she must bring approval of the negotiated deal and she must bring clear ideas on timing.”
“My impression is … that this week at the European Council there will be no decision, but that we will probably have to meet again next week, because Mrs. May doesn’t have agreement to anything, either in her Cabinet or in Parliament,” Juncker added.
“As long as we don’t know what Britain could say yes to, we can’t reach a decision.”
Britain’s political chaos is causing increasing exasperation among EU leaders.
A delay to Britain’s withdrawal would require the approval of all 27 remaining EU countries. Juncker said that “in all probability” Britain won’t leave on March 29, but he underlined the EU’s insistence that it will not reopen the painstakingly negotiated withdrawal agreement that British lawmakers have snubbed.
“There will be no renegotiations, no new negotiations and no additional assurances on top of the additional assurances we have already given,” he said.
“We will keep talking to the British. We are not in a state of war with Britain, we are in a state of negotiations, but the negotiations are concluded.”