Merkel warns EU is likely to agree to lengthy Brexit delay

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Theresa May the EU is likely to agree to a longer Brexit delay than the one she is asking for.

Theresa May meets the leaders of the remaining EU 27 later on Wednesday to press for a further extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process to June 30 to allow her more time to get a deal through Parliament.

However Mrs Merkel, who met the Prime Minister in Berlin on Tuesday ahead of the Brussels summit, suggested they “may well” go for a longer delay, although the UK would be allowed to leave “very quickly” if Parliament approves a withdrawal deal.

“We will shape this extension in such a way that whenever Britain has approved the withdrawal agreement, Britain can then complete its orderly withdrawal very shortly after,” she told German MPs.

Her comments were in line with a plan put forward by European Council president Donald Tusk for an extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process.

With Britain set to leave the EU at 11pm on Friday without a deal unless an extension is agreed, Mrs May insisted she would be “pressing the case” in the Belgian capital for a shorter delay.

The Prime Minister, however, remains under intense pressure from Conservative MPs – already angry at the failure to leave on March 29 as planned – who oppose any further delay.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Tory backbencher Craig Tracey said she should abandon her “diluted deal” and take Britain out on World Trade Organisation terms, while Henry Smith warned an extension would cost the UK £1 billion a month.

Mrs May however told MPs Britain would already be outside the EU if they had been prepared to vote for her Withdrawal Agreement.

“The best Brexit for the UK is for us to be able to leave in an orderly way, to be able to leave with a deal,” she said.

“We could actually have been outside the EU by now if we had managed to get the deal through.”

Earlier, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay insisted ministers were committed to taking Britain out of the EU at the “earliest opportunity”.

“I don’t want to see a long extension. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to see a long extension. That is why the request today is to June 30 in order that we can leave as soon as possible,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Mr Barclay, a Brexiteer, sidestepped questions as to whether Mrs May could remain in office if the EU insisted on a longer delay.

In contrast, the pro-EU Justice Secretary David Gauke suggested she could carry on until she has taken the country through the current phase of the negotiations and Britain has finally left the EU.

“I don’t think we should be rushing to change our leader when there is a big task to be done,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“If we are going through that process of trying to get Parliament to support a deal to find a way of breaking this deadlock, then Theresa May continues to be right person to lead us through that process.”

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