Chief negotiator says European Union is open to further Brexit delay

French President Emmanuel Macron is leading the charge to impose tough political conditions on the UK as the price for any Brexit delay

British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday to argue for a Brexit delay while her ministers hold crisis talks with the opposition to try to break the deadlock in London.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, also said the length of any delay will depend on the rationale May presents in Brussels on Wednesday.

EU diplomatic sources I have spoken to suggest the prime minister may have officially asked the EU for a short new extension (until 30 June) as that was politically easier for her back home, whereas she believed and hoped (the theory goes) that EU leaders will insist instead on a flexible long extension that she actually needs.

"The duration of an extension - it has got to be in line with the goal of any such extension", Barnier told a news conference on Tuesday.

While the talks were taking place in London, May undertook a diplomatic push in Berlin and Paris in a bid to secure another extension to the negotiating process, despite being unable to present the credible alternative Brexit plan the European Union said it required to sanction such a move.

The leaders also discussed the ongoing situations in Yemen and Libya.

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The law does not actually prevent a no-deal Brexit when the deadline for Britain runs out on Friday, as that is the legal default if Britain and the European Union can not agree on an extension at the summit. Following the prime minister's letter to Donald Tusk last week, the leaders discussed the UK's request for an extension of article 50 to 30 June, with the option to bring this forward if a deal is ratified earlier. "The public will not forgive the government if an extension is sought and agreed under the pretence of efforts to secure cross-party compromise", he said.

After officials from the two sides met on Monday, the fresh round of talks will include Mrs May's defacto deputy, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, and Labour's shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer.

Lord Hague wrote: "It is hard in any case to see how carrying through the programme of Brexit procedures and laws could be sustained by an agreement between part of the Conservative Party and the bulk of the Labour Party - the Government would be highly likely to collapse under such a strain".

The UK is now due to leave the European Union at 23:00 BST on Friday.

The Cabinet Office said the elections would automatically be cancelled if the United Kingdom left before then.

European Council president Donald Tusk has suggested offering the United Kingdom a "flexible" extension to Brexit of up to a year, with the option of leaving earlier if a deal is ratified.

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