Prime Minister Theresa May battled on Tuesday to stop Britain crashing out of the EU this week. Theresa was pleading with France and Germany for a second and more lengthy delay to Brexit. May met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and was due later to meet in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron, who so far has taken a harder line on the issue.
In Germany, a source in Merkel’s party said she could consider a delay until the start of 2020. British MPs have rejected the text, and May’s government is now in talks with the opposition Labour party to try to find a way through the deadlock.
Speaking ahead of May’s talks in Paris with Macron, the aide to the French president said France had “never been closed to the idea of finding an alternative solution to ‘no deal’ within certain limits and not at any price”.
Earlier, the words “European Union” were removed from the front cover of the passports being issued by Britain. The longstanding decision to start introducing passports without reference to the EU had gone ahead from March 30, the day after the original date for Brexit, the interior ministry said on Saturday. The British government and the main opposition were to hold further crisis talks on earlier on Thursday after MPs voted in favour of a Brexit delay that would avoid Britain crashing out of the EU on April 12.
In anticipation of this, May’s government on Monday reluctantly laid the legal order needed to hold European Parliament elections on May 23.
But she is hoping that EU leaders might agree to a flexible delay proposed by Tusk, whereby Britain could leave earlier if it agrees on a divorce deal, and never hold the elections.
“It does not make these elections inevitable as leaving the EU before the date of election automatically removes our obligation to take part,” a spokeswoman said.
European leaders have also asked May to come up with a reason for a delay, with France in particular warning that it does not want simply to prolong the uncertainty.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters at a G7 meeting in France on Saturday that it was time for the Brexit crisis to end.
“The British authorities and the British parliament need to understand that (the EU) is not going to be able to constantly exhaust itself with the ups and downs of domestic British politics,” he said.
However Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar cautioned it was “extremely unlikely” a member would veto another extension while revealing he now favoured a lengthy delay.