Brexit delay until European elections no legal problem, says Germany

BERLIN (Reuters) - Delaying Britain’s departure from the European Union until European elections in late May would not be legally problematic, a senior German official said on Wednesday, a day before EU leaders meet to discuss a possible extension.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has requested a three-month extension to Brexit to buy time to get her twice-rejected divorce deal though parliament.

“An extension until the European elections is not problematic at all from a legal viewpoint -- whether it is actually problematic is a political question,” the official said.

Striking a conciliatory tone, he declined to say whether a delay beyond the European elections would be problematic but added that there was no legal obstacle to another extension to the Brexit deadline after the current request.

May’s request faced immediate resistance from the EU which said any delay should either be until May 23, the date of the European Parliament elections, or at least until the end of the year. That would require Britain to take part in those elections.

The German official, said EU leaders would discuss the issue at their summit and much would depend on what May put forward.

“From our point of view it always makes sense to talk with our English friends,’ said the official, adding Germany would do all it could to achieve a deal with Britain and said its patience was “unlimited” despite the protracted negotiations.

“I would say time is open until the time when they leave -- and two weeks are a long time in politics,” said the official.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Paul Carrel; Editing by Michelle Martin and Catherine Evans