Theresa May to seek further Brexit delay

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May said an extension would allow the UK to leave the bloc in a 'timely' way [Jack Taylor/Getty Images]

The United Kingdom will seek a further delay to the process of leaving the European Union to expire once parliament agrees on a deal, Theresa May announced on Tuesday.

The British Prime Minister spoke to reporters following a marathon seven-hour cabinet meeting to try and find a solution to the political impasse over Brexit.

"We will need a further extension of Article 50, one that is as short as possible and which ends when we pass a deal. And we need to be clear what such an extension is for, to ensure we leave in a timely and orderly way," May said in a televised statement.

The UK is set to leave European bloc on April 12 without a deal, unless the government can agree an extension with EU leaders.

May said that, while she believed a no-deal scenario could be made a success of in the long run, it would be better to leave the EU with a deal in place and in order to do this, she would seek an extension.

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She said that any plan would need to involve passing her withdrawal agreement, which has so far failed three times to pass through parliament.

May also offered to sit down with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to find a deal both parties could agree on.

"Today I am taking action to break the logjam. I am offering to sit down with the leader of the opposition and to try to agree a plan that we would both stick to ensure that we leave the European Union and that we do so with a deal," she said.

If the two can agree on a deal, it will be voted on by MPs before a European Council summit scheduled for April 10.

May has said that should she and Corbyn not be able to reach an agreement, she would allow MPs to vote to say which way they would like the Brexit negotiations to continue. May pledged to respect the will of parliament should such a vote occur.

Taking back control?

May's announcement came after a cross-party group of 12 MPs, led by Labour's Yvette Cooper, said they will try to pass a law that would force May to seek a delay to Brexit in order to prevent a potentially chaotic no-deal exit on April 12.

Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan, reporting from outside 10 Downing Street, May's official residence, said that with Tuesday's announcement, May has taken back control of the Brexit process.

"You could say that she [May] has almost jumped before she was pushed because the MPs were adamant that they were going to put this motion in front of the parliament on Wednesday in order to seize control again and essentially compel the prime minister to go back to Brussels and ask for an extension. What she's done by announcing this is to seize back control of the process," he said.

The other 27 EU member states must agree to any further delay to the Brexit negotiating period and have said that the UK would need to provide a suitable reason for such a delay.

'Let us be patient'

Corbyn is yet to respond to May's offer, but John Johnston, politics reporter for political news website Politics Home told Al Jazeera, that the overture was a significant one.

"It is now clear to the prime minister that she cannot get this deal through with the votes from her own party so this very likely means that they will be seeking – potentially – a softer Brexit deal than she had been putting forward," he said.

Johnston added that May's decision to work with the opposition is likely to infuriate members of her Conservative party.

"We may still see some resignations from her cabinet over this. They had been very keen for the government to commit to a no-deal if they failed to pass her deal," he said.

At a press conference with Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar earlier on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the UK would only have itself to blame for a no-deal scenario.

"If the United Kingdom is not capable, almost three years after the referendum, of coming forward with a solution that is supported by a majority, it will have effectively chosen a no-deal exit on its own," Macron said, adding that whether an alternative plan involved a snap election, a referendum or a customs union was for Britain to decide.

"It's up for London to say it, and to say it now … The EU cannot be held hostage to the resolution of a political crisis in the United Kingdom on a long-term basis."

European Council President Donald Tusk struck a more conciliatory tone, urging the need for patience in a post on Twitter, following May's announcement.

"Even if, after today, we don't know what the end result will be, let us be patient," he wrote.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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