European leaders look set to offer longer Article 50 extension

Prime Minister Theresa May with French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after Brexit talks at the �l

Prime Minister Theresa May with French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after Brexit talks at the �lys�e Palace in Paris. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

European leaders look set to offer Theresa May a longer extension to Article 50 than she will request at a crunch summit in Brussels.

The prime minister is set to repeat her call to delay Brexit until June 30, with the possibility of an earlier departure if the UK's withdrawal deal is ratified.

But European Council president Donald Tusk suggested on the eve of the summit that EU leaders grant the UK a longer extension of up to one year.

Tusk, in a letter to the heads of the 27 remaining member states, said there was 'little reason to believe' that the ratification of May's beleaguered Brexit deal could be completed by the end of June.

He called for the European Council to discuss an alternative, longer extension, such as a 'flexible extension' lasting 'as long as necessary and no longer than one year'.

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Tusk wrote: 'The flexibility would allow to terminate the extension automatically, as soon as both sides have ratified the Withdrawal Agreement.

'The UK would be free to leave whenever it is ready. And the EU27 would avoid repeated Brexit summits.

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'Importantly, a long extension would provide more certainty and predictability by removing the threat of constantly shifting cliff-edge dates.

'Furthermore, in the event of a continued stalemate, such a longer extension would allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy.'

Tusk also warned that 'neither side should be allowed to feel humiliated at any stage in this difficult process'.

It follows May's whistle-stop tour on Tuesday of European capitals for talks with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds branded the talks 'humiliating and embarrassing' for the UK, and claimed Britain was 'effectively holding out a begging bowl to European leaders'.

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