EU leaders need a concrete plan from the UK on Brexit extension | News | DW | 19.03.2019
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EU leaders need a concrete plan from the UK on Brexit extension

EU politicians have demanded "clear and precise" Brexit proposals from Theresa May ahead of a crucial summit. EU negotiator Michel Barnier has said May must choose between a long and short extension.

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Bercow: 'No third Brexit vote without changes'

The European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned on Tuesday that any long Brexit delay would pile on economic and political costs for the bloc.

Barnier asked if any potential postponement of the UK's departure date of March 29 would be useful. "We cannot prolong uncertainty without having a good reason for it," Barnier told reporters on Tuesday, 10 days before Brexit day as it stands in UK law.

Delay? Perhaps, but for what?

"EU leaders will need a concrete plan from the UK in order to be able to make an informed decision," Barnier said.

A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the PM would write to European Council President Donald Tusk ahead of an EU leaders' summit on Thursday with a plan for delaying Brexit, but did not provide specifics.

EU diplomats have expressed concern that delaying without a plan could succeed only in "prolonging the agony" of the current deadlock in the UK Parliament.

May had been hoping to win over her opponents in the House of Commons and get her deal approved before the summit. But that plan was stymied on Monday when speaker John Bercow ruled that she couldn't ask politicians to vote on the same divorce deal they had already rejected twice, at least not without substantive changes to the proposal.

Read more: Is the EU willing to grant an Article 50 extension?

Growing impatience

"The clock is ticking and time is running out and we are really exhausted by these negotiations," German EU Affairs Minister Michael Roth told journalists. He said that, in Germany's view, the EU cannot grant an extension without "clear and precise proposals" from London.

"It's not just a game. It's an extremely serious situation," he added, saying that the mood among member states was "very bad."

Read more: EU leaders seek clarity from UK before possible Brexit delay

EU: Tell us what you want from Brexit

With 10 days to go before the scheduled Brexit date, May's options are limited. A third vote on the existing deal is by no means impossible, but has been made far trickier after Bercow's intervention. Another potential solution could be to request a lengthy delay from the bloc and convince Parliament to approve a different deal. Other alternatives include Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal — which would disrupt business across the bloc — or even a second Brexit referendum down the track. 

A spokesman for the European Commission, the EU's executive, said the EU expected swift information from Britain on how it wishes to proceed.

"It will be for the Prime Minister and Her Majesty's Government to decide on the next steps and then to inform us accordingly and swiftly," spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.

French EU Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau echoed those comments, saying the time for a decision had come: "We are approaching this with goodwill. But we also have other issues to deal with and we have fellow citizens and businesses for whom the uncertainty is unbearable."

Read more: Brexit: What Europe wants

Merkel to 'fight to the last hour'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was prepared to struggle until the last possible moment to secure an orderly exit for Britain, saying a no-deal divorce would be detrimental to all sides.

"I will fight to the last hour of the deadline on March 29 for an orderly exit [of Britain from the European Union]," she told a conference in Berlin. "We don't have a lot of time for it but still have a few days."

When asked if she would be prepared to grant Britain an extension, Merkel replied that she wanted to have good relations with London after Brexit, and that EU leaders would "try to react" to whatever May proposes.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stressed that he would rather give the UK more time to find a solution than end up with a no-deal scenario: "If more time is needed, it's always better to do another round than a no-deal Brexit," Maas told a news conference in Helsinki.

kw,nm/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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