An anti-Brexit supporter stands by European and British Union flags placed opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, March 18, 2019. British Prime Minister Theresa May was making a last-minute push Monday to win support for her European Union divorce deal, warning opponents that failure to approve it would mean a long — and possibly indefinite — delay to Brexit. Parliament has rejected the agreement twice, but May aims to try a third time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The Latest: EU Parliament says Tusk has shown UK way ahead

March 20, 2019 - 1:37 pm

BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on Britain's departure from the European Union (all times local):

6:30 p.m.

The European Parliament's chief Brexit official says Wednesday's developments over Britain's looming departure from the EU mean there's only one way British Prime Minister Theresa May can get a short extension to the country's scheduled date of departure — getting a cross-party majority of lawmakers to back her withdrawal agreement with the EU.

Guy Verhofstadt said Donald Tusk, the European Council president who will chair Thursday's summit of EU leaders in Brussels, made it clear that "the only relevant question now is if Prime Minister May can muster a cross-party majority by next week."

Following two heavy defeats in Parliament for her deal, May faces an uphill struggle to get it through. That raises the prospect that the country could crash out of the EU on March 29 without a deal.

Verhofstadt has long-said there could not be an extension of the March 29 date, unless there was a well-founded reason for it. 

The European Parliament also needs to approve the Brexit divorce deal. 

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5:15 p.m.

European Union chief Donald Tusk says the EU will agree to a short Brexit delay on the condition that U.K. lawmakers approve a divorce agreement they've rejected twice.

Tusk said Wednesday "that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote" in the U.K. parliament on the Brexit agreement British Prime Minister Theresa May reached with the EU.

The European Council president says May's petition for a withdrawal date of June 30 instead of March 29 poses legal and political issues since elections for the EU Parliament are being held May 23-26.

He stressed that the existing Brexit deal won't be reopened, though says he doesn't see a problem with May's March 11 agreement with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that provided some extra guarantees.

Tusk is set to chair a summit of EU nation leaders on Thursday.

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4:40 p.m.

France's foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, has set three criteria that Britain must meet if British Prime Minister Theresa May is to be granted a Brexit extension.

Speaking at the National Assembly ahead of the meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday where May's request for an extension to the country's departure date from March 29 to June 30 will be discussed, Le Drian warned that the country would likely crash out of the bloc without a deal if the conditions are not met.

He said that the May must convince leaders that "the purpose of the delay is to finalize the ratification of the deal already negotiated" and that the deal agreed last November "won't be renegotiated."

He also said that the short delay request has to be conditioned on the U.K. not participating in the European parliamentary elections from May 23-26.

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3:25 p.m.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis says his country is ready to approve Britain's request for a delay to its scheduled departure from the European Union.

According to Czech public radio, Babis told lawmakers in the lower house of Parliament a 'no-deal' Brexit "would be the worst possible outcome" and that the "best solution would be a second referendum in Britain whose result would keep Britain in the EU."

He said that voters in the Brexit referendum of June 2016 when Britain narrowly voted to leave the EU, were influenced by "disinformation."

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3:05 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman is welcoming the fact that Britain has finally made a "clear request" about how to proceed on Brexit, but isn't saying how Germany will respond.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has asked the EU for Britain's departure to be delayed from March 29 to June 30, but said she wasn't prepared to delay Brexit any further.

A delay will need approval from all 27 other EU leaders, and they are meeting at a summit in Brussels starting Thursday.

Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters in Berlin: "We welcome the fact that there is now a clear request from Britain."

Seibert said that the request "will certainly be discussed intensively" at the summit, but wouldn't offer an opinion ahead of the talks. He said Germany remains convinced that a no-deal Brexit "would be in no one's interest."

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2:55 p.m.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, says Britain should leave the EU by the start of elections to the European Parliament on May 23 if the country is not taking part.

That's earlier than the request British Prime Minister Theresa May has made. In a letter to the EU, May wants EU leaders to back an extension to the Brexit date from March 29 to June 30.

An EU Commission official said Juncker told May in a telephone call that "the withdrawal has to be complete before May 23," the first day of the European elections.

The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation, said that if the deadline comes later Juncker warned May that "we face institutional difficulties and legal uncertainty."

He insisted EU elections would have to be held in Britain if a June 30 date was asked for.

The 27 EU nations meeting in a summit Thursday need to back an extension to the deadline unanimously.

___ By Raf Casert in Brussels.

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2:30 p.m.

French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux says a delay to Britain's scheduled departure from the European Union can be considered but only on condition that British Prime Minister Theresa May "provides guarantees."

Speaking following a weekly Cabinet meeting, Griveaux said May must express to EU leaders in Brussels at a summit on Thursday "what purpose" lies behind her delay request.

"We cannot speculate on any scenario", he said.

Earlier, May formally, via a letter, asked the EU to delay the scheduled Brexit date from March 29, until June 30 following Parliament's failure to vote for the withdrawal agreement that she negotiated with the bloc.

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1:15 p.m.

Prime Minister Theresa May has asked the European Union to delay Britain's departure from the European Union until June 30.

The U.K. is currently due to leave the bloc in nine days, but Parliament has twice rejected May's divorce deal with the EU.

May told European Council President Donald Tusk in a letter seeking the extension that she intends to try a third time to get the deal approved.

A delay to Brexit needs approval from all 27 remaining EU member states, who are meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

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9:55 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing to ask the European Union for a short delay to the country's divorce from the European Union.

Britain's Press Association is citing sources in the prime minister's office as saying May will write to EU leaders on Wednesday to formally request "a bit more time." Parliament last week voted for a three-month delay to the end of June, but some EU leaders have suggested another two years might be necessary.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds told the BBC on Wednesday that a shorter delay is the right option.

Hinds says the process has already gone on for more than two years, "and I think people are a bit tired of waiting for Parliament to get our act together and get the deal passed."

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9 a.m.

The head of the European Union's executive branch says a decision on a delay to Brexit is unlikely at this week's EU summit and the bloc's leaders may have to meet again next week.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit, currently scheduled for March 29, ahead of an EU summit starting Thursday. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that he hadn't received a letter as of Wednesday morning.

Juncker told Germany's Deutschlandfunk radio: "My impression is ... that this week at the European Council there will be no decision, but that we will probably have to meet again next week."

He added that "Mrs. May doesn't have agreement to anything, either in her Cabinet or in Parliament."

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