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British PM asks European Union for 3-month delay to Brexit

21 March 2019

In angry exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions, she told MPs that they had indulged themselves on Brexit for too long and that she would never agree to a delay that meant holding European Parliamentary elections.

'It was the biggest democratic exercise in our country's history.

'This delay is a matter of great personal regret for me. "It is now time for MPs to decide", in a statement at Downing Street today.

Mrs May said: "Of this, I am absolutely sure: You the public have had enough".

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who is opposed to Brexit, told the Commons the sight of May rebuking Parliament for its role in the process was "the worst moment I have experienced since I came into the House of Commons".

British PM asks European Union for 3-month delay to Brexit
British PM asks European Union for 3-month delay to Brexit

According to a European Commission report leaked to Reuters, the EU would want any delay beyond 23 May to be significantly longer and require the UK's participation in European elections - a prospect May has described as unthinkable.

British opposition politicians, and pro-EU members of May's Conservative government, have urged a longer extension, saying a delay of just a few months could leave the country once again facing a no-deal Brexit this summer.

European Council President Donald Tusk dramatically upped the Brexit stakes on Wednesday (20 March), warning the United Kingdom that the EU will only grant Theresa May's Brexit extension request if UK lawmakers back the Withdrawal Agreement next week.

May's plan to ask MPs to vote for a third time on her Brexit deal earlier this week was torpedoed by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow.

But French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said May would need to make her case before European Union leaders.

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Even worse than her withdrawal agreement, her backbench Brexiteers fear two other concerns.

Yet Theresa May's allies say, at this vital moment, she felt it imperative to express that she has a line - staying in the European Union three years after the referendum - that she is not, as prime minister, willing to cross. "I'm on your side".

Juncker said Britain's Parliament needed to decide whether it would approve the only deal that is on the table.

While she said she would "work night and day" to secure support for her deal, her comments infuriated many of those MPs she needs to win over.

'That would mean asking you to vote in European elections almost three years after our country chose to leave.

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What kind of message would that send?

"There will be no renegotiations, no new negotiations and no additional assurances on top of the additional assurances we have already given", he said.

Instead, opposition MPs and europhile Tories will seek a way to bypass Mrs May and hold votes on alternative options, such as a second referendum or a softer Brexit.

'I don't believe that's what you want and it is not what I want.

"Here of course we've got a clash between direct democracy and representative democracy, that is fundamentally what is going on here".

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'And that is what I am determined to do'.

British PM asks European Union for 3-month delay to Brexit