March 20, 2019 / 4:33 PM / a month ago

Brexit delay request will be rejected if no guarantees of deal success - France

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian take part in a EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels, Belgium March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

PARIS (Reuters) - Britain’s request for a delay to Brexit will be rejected by the EU if Prime Minister Theresa May cannot provide sufficient guarantees that her parliament will approve the divorce deal she negotiated, France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The French stance was markedly tougher in tone than the public rhetoric out of Berlin, where Germany’s foreign minister said only that an orderly British departure from the European Union would solve the Brexit turmoil.

May asked for a three-month delay to Brexit on Wednesday to buy time to get her twice-rejected departure deal through parliament. Her request came just nine days before Britain is formally due to leave the EU, the latest twist in more than two years of negotiations that have left British politics in chaos.

“A situation in which Mrs May was not able to present to the European Council sufficient guarantees of the credibility of her strategy would lead to the extension request being dismissed and opting for a no-deal exit,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told the French National Assembly.

A senior official in President Emmanuel Macron’s office said May had requested a “technical extension”. This suggested that approval would be conditional on the British parliament ratifying the withdrawal agreement negotiated by May.

Any extension has to be approved by all 27 EU members remaining in the bloc.

In recent weeks, Germany has appeared to adopt a more conciliatory stance. Paris and Berlin are discussing their response to May’s delay request, a source familiar with the diplomatic effort said, with Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel due to meet on Thursday in Brussels, on the sidelines of an EU summit.

Speaking in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he expected EU leaders to make a decision on how to proceed with May’s request at that summit.

“We’d like to know where it leads,” Maas told a news conference in Berlin. “We’ve always said that if the (European) Council has to decide on a deadline extension for Britain, then we’d like to know why and what for.”

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Richard Lough and Kevin Liffey

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