May in diplomatic dash to Berlin and Paris to get support for Brexit delay

The prime minister will today attempt to persuade France and Germany to support her request for another Brexit delay, ahead of an emergency summit of EU leaders tomorrow.

Theresa May will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin this morning, before later travelling to Paris to hold talks with President Emmanuel Macron.

She is expected to urge them to accept her request for a delay until 30 June, despite indications from EU Council President Donald Tusk that a longer extension – potentially through to March 2020 – would be preferred by Brussels.

Getting the support of Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron will be key for the PM

Any decision to delay the UK’s departure must be taken unanimously by the 27 EU leaders when they meet tomorrow night.

The French president has indicated he could veto an extension if Mrs May does not present a credible plan for how she intends to get parliament to ratify the Brexit withdrawal agreement.


The last-minute bilateral meetings come as senior cabinet figures prepare to resume talks with Labour in an effort to find an alternative Brexit approach that could win cross-party backing.

A Downing Street spokesperson said they were “committed to finding a way through in order to ensure we can leave the EU and deliver on the referendum”.

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“That will require the parties to work at pace in order to address outstanding issues – and so ministers and their shadow counterparts will be holding talks tomorrow [Tuesday],” they added.

A Labour spokesperson also confirmed that both sides would seek to “attempt to secure a Brexit compromise”.

However, Jeremy Corbyn has restated his complaint that the government had not yet indicated where it was prepared to make changes.

“The key issues that we must see real movement on to secure an agreement are a customs union with the EU, alignment with the single market and full dynamic alignment of workers’ rights, environmental protections and consumer standards,” the Labour leader said.

                              May in diplomatic dash to Berlin and Paris to get support for Brexit delay

Jeremy Corbyn has said the government has still not shifted its red lines on Brexit

“We are prepared to talk and put forward our view, but talks have to mean a movement and so far there has been no change in those red lines.”

Last night, MPs and peers approved legislation that places a legal obligation on the prime minister to seek an extension from Brussels in order to avoid a no-deal exit on Friday.

The legislation was put forward by Yvette Cooper as part of a cross-party backbench effort to take control of the parliamentary agenda from the government.

It was passed by the House of Commons by 390 votes to 81.

                              May in diplomatic dash to Berlin and Paris to get support for Brexit delay

‘We must deliver Brexit’

The new law has required the government to put forward a motion for debate in the Commons later today that will seek approval for the PM’s 30 June extension request.

MPs will be able to amend the date proposed, although it is not thought there is sufficient opposition to the proposal for it to be changed.

The EU have made clear any exit date later than 22 May would require European parliament elections to be held in the UK.

The government insist they remain committed to avoiding that outcome, but yesterday Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis emailed all the party’s candidates, admitting: “It is clear that we need to make contingency plans.”

                              May in diplomatic dash to Berlin and Paris to get support for Brexit delay

The bill was passed by the House of Commons by 390 votes to 81

De-facto deputy prime minister David Lidington and the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox also wrote to MPs to confirm “the government’s policy is to leave the EU with a deal… before 23 May so that the UK does not need to participate in the European Parliament elections”.

But they too acknowledged that under the current law, if Britain is still a member of the EU by then it had to participate in the poll.

The move sparked outrage from some Tory Brexiteers, with Sir Bill Cash accusing the government of igniting a “firestorm”.

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