Posted on: Reuters | April 9th, 2019
Authors: Thomas Escritt, Paul Carrel, Richard Lough
Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday met Angela Merkel, the European Union’s most powerful leader, to seek support for a new Brexit delay while her ministers tried to break the deadlock in London at crisis talks with the Labour Party.
More than a week after the United Kingdom was originally supposed to have left the EU, the weakest British prime minister in a generation has said Brexit might never happen as she battles to get a divorce deal ratified by a divided parliament.
With little sign of a resolution in London, May dashed to Berlin to seek support for her request to delay Brexit a second time, from April 12 to June 30. She was due to meet French President Emmanuel Macron later on.
May met Merkel at her riverside Chancellery, a short walk from the Brandenburg Gate, where Ronald Reagan in 1987 urged Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” – the barrier that had divided West and East Berlin since 1961.
“The leaders discussed the UK’s request for an extension of Article 50 to June 30, with the option to bring this forward if a deal is ratified earlier,” Downing Street said. “The leaders agreed on the importance of ensuring Britain’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union.”
While Merkel and May discussed Brexit inside, the opposition liberal FDP party drove an advertising van past the chancellor’s office with a slogan reading: “Dear Theresa May. Just do it. Stop Brexit. Make the most of Europe’s opportunities.”
WHAT’S THE PLAN?
May and Merkel exchanged kisses and Merkel waved farewell as May left for Paris to meet Macron at the Elysee Palace.
On the eve of an emergency EU summit in Brussels, chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc was ready to grant a delay, but that the duration “has got to be in line with the purpose of any such extension”.
“Any extension should serve a purpose. The length should be proportional to the objective. Our objective is an orderly withdrawal,” Barnier told a news conference in Luxembourg.
“‘No-deal’ will never be the EU’s decision. In order to avoid ‘no-deal’, the UK needs to agree to a deal,” Barnier said.
EU leaders, fatigued by the three-year Brexit crisis, have repeatedly refused to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement that May agreed in November. Barnier repeated that, though he held open the option of agreeing much closer post-Brexit ties.
The pound, which has seesawed so much on Brexit news that some investors have stepped away from the sterling market, rose and then dipped on speculation Merkel could offer May a better deal. Germany denied that. [GBP/]
The 2016 referendum revealed a United Kingdom divided over much more than EU membership, and has sparked impassioned debate about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, empire and what it means to be British.
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