Prime Minister Theresa May will ask the European Union (EU) to delay Brexit by at least three months after her plan to hold another vote this week on her twice-defeated divorce deal was thrown into disarray by a surprise intervention from the speaker of parliament, Reuters reported on Tuesday, March 19th.
Nearly three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, its departure is uncertain and European capitals are pressing May to spell out her next moves. Possible eventual outcomes still range from a long postponement, leaving with May's deal, a disruptive exit without a deal, or even another referendum.
Ten days before the March 29th exit date that May set, and two days before a crucial EU summit, she was on Tuesday writing to European Council President Donald Tusk to ask for a delay, her spokesman said.
He did not disclose how long a delay she would seek, but said she believed it should be as short as possible.
The prime minister had earlier warned parliament that if it did not ratify her deal, she would ask to delay Brexit beyond June 30th, a step that Brexit's advocates fear would endanger the entire divorce.
Other EU member states were discussing two main options: a delay of two to three months, if May persuades them she can clinch a deal at home, or much longer if she accepts that radical reworking is needed.
The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said an extension would only make sense if it increased the chances of May's deal being ratified by parliament.
He said the economic and political costs of a delay for the EU had to be weighed against the potential benefits.
The BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, said May would ask for an extension until June 30th - which could give her another chance to pass her deal - with the option of a delay of up to two years.