EU lawmaker Verhofstadt warns against Brexit extension

ALDE President and Former Belgium Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt takes part in the kick-off campaign of La Republique En Marche Benelux, in Brussels, Belgium, April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - The European Union should reject a request from Britain to extend its Brexit deadline unless British lawmakers rally around a clear objective for what they want to achieve, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator said on Wednesday.

Liberal party leader Guy Verhofstadt told the chamber that extending Brexit beyond the May 23-26 EU legislative election would allow Brexit supporters to hijack the European debate.

He said that extending Brexit “even for 24 hours” beyond the current deadline of March 29 should only be done if the British parliament, which rejected the EU’s treaty offer on Tuesday, had a clear plan.

A decision on extension would have to be made by EU national leaders if the British government were to request one.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald @macdonaldrtr; editing by Francesco Guarascio