Europe mounted an emergency summit on Wednesday to decide how long a Brexit delay to grant British Prime Minister Theresa May — and under what conditions.
Without a postponement, Britain is due to crash out of the European Union at midnight on Friday under a “no-deal” Brexit that could trigger economic chaos.
May’s June 30 demand
Ms. May wants to postpone Brexit from April 12 to June 30 to arrange an orderly departure — but the European leaders gathered in Brussels for a summit were expected to offer her a longer delay, of up to a year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Parliament in Berlin before setting out for Brussels that the leaders might back a delay “longer than the British Prime Minister has requested.” “I am of the opinion, the German government is of the opinion, that we should give both parties a reasonable amount of time,” she said. EU Council president Donald Tusk, hosting the summit, said the evidence of recent months gave EU leaders “little reason to believe” that British lawmakers will ratify the Brexit withdrawal treaty before Ms. May’s preferred June 30 date.
“In reality, granting such an extension would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates,” he said, reflecting concern in EU capitals.
“One possibility would be a flexible extension, which would last only as long as necessary and no longer than one year,” he said.
According to a draft copy of the summit conclusions that EU leaders were to negotiate later in the day, they were to agree to an extension to allow Ms. May time to ratify the withdrawal agreement.
In Paris, an aide to President Emmanuel Macron said France was open to solutions.