May Requests Brexit Delay From E.U. as U.K. Government Remains in Crisis – The New York Times
Though the political paralysis over Brexit is in Parliament, the decision on whether to grant the delay lies with the European Union, whose leaders had been expected to agree to some sort of extra time when they gather in Brussels on Thursday. But that could now be in doubt.
Speaking to the German radio station Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said that any decision by the European Union might have to be postponed until the end of next week, after fresh votes in Parliament. That could be on the eve of Britain’s departure, scheduled for March 29.
An extension could come with conditions, and European leaders stressed on Tuesday that they want to see some form of strategy in place to resolve the crisis. They worry that three months is not sufficient for Mrs. May to achieve success, and that she will be back to request another delay in the summer. That would be hard for them to accommodate for legal reasons, because Britain would not have participated in European elections.
Mrs. May faced criticism from all sides in Parliament on Wednesday. Several lawmakers noted that her decision directly contradicts a statement last week by David Lidington, her de facto deputy, who said that, in the absence of a deal, seeking such “a short and, critically, one-off extension would be downright reckless.” To do so, Mr. Lidington had said, would make “a no-deal scenario far more, rather than less, likely.”
But one pro-Brexit Conservative, Peter Bone, argued that if Mrs. May failed to honor her promise to achieve Brexit by March 29, she would be “betraying the British people.”
Since becoming prime minister in 2016, Mrs. May’s overriding objective has been to extricate Britain from the bloc while maintaining the unity of her Conservative Party.