World

Merkel backs longer Brexit delay than what UK is seeking

German Chancellor says EU leaders could agree to an even longer delay than May's June 30 deadline request

BERLIN German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that she was open to giving Britain more time to arrange its exit from the EU than the June 30 departure London is seeking.

Ms Merkel told Germany's parliament ahead of a special EU summit in Brussels dedicated to Brexit that leaders may well agree to a delay "longer than the British prime minister (Theresa May) has requested".

She said she would meet French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the summit with the aim of finding a common stance on the length of a further extension.

"I am of the opinion, the German government is of the opinion, that we should give both (British) parties a reasonable amount of time" to reach an agreement on an orderly Brexit, she said. "I think the extension should be as short as possible.

"But it should be long enough to create a certain calm so we don't have to meet every two weeks to deal with the same subject."

Without a postponement, Britain is due to crash out of the European Union at midnight tomorrow under a "no-deal" Brexit that could trigger economic chaos.

Mrs May has embarked on a last-ditch battle to postpone Brexit from April 12 to June 30 so as to arrange an orderly departure - but European leaders are expected to offer her a longer delay of up to a year.

'STRONG INTEREST'

Ms Merkel, who met Mrs May on Tuesday in Berlin, stressed that it was in the "strong interest" of Germany as the EU's biggest economy to avert a disorderly Brexit, AFP reported.

A source from Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Union later quoted the chancellor as telling a party meeting that she viewed an extension of the Brexit deadline for "several months to early 2020 as possible".

But a French source said a 12-month extension "seems too long".

Ms Merkel said Berlin had been "in constant contact with the French side, there will be a meeting today" with Mr Macron "to again coordinate our positions".

"I think we will come to a conclusion that will not fail due to a disagreement between Germany and France," she said.

But Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said it remained unclear whether Britain would receive an extension on the deadline for its withdrawal ahead of the meeting of EU leaders, Reuters reported.

"It is not certain there will be a delay," Mr Michel told reporters in Brussels. "And it is not certain what that would mean."

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told Reuters the EU should help Britain reach an agreement for an orderly Brexit, adding that he hoped a chaotic departure from the bloc could be averted.

"Everyone in Europe hopes that there will be an agreement between the government and opposition about the way to get an agreed Brexit," Mr Scholz said.

"It's the task of the European Union to be helpful in a process in the United Kingdom like this," Mr Scholz said.

"I hope that the risk of a no-deal Brexit is decreasing."

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