March 21, 2019 / 7:17 PM / a month ago

EU considers options for Brexit delay: May 7, year-end or open-ended, diplomats say

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel and Britain's Permanent Representative to the EU Tim Barrow attend a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders were considering different options on delaying Brexit on Thursday, possibly until May 7, the end of the year or even leaving the date open for now, diplomatic sources said.

The leaders started discussions on delaying Brexit after British Prime Minister Theresa May asked to postpone the current exit date of March 29 until the end of June.

The summit’s chairman wanted to delay until May 22 if the British parliament approved the EU-UK withdrawal deal next week. But France pushed back and the latest offer was until May 7th - whether the House of Commons approves the deal next week or not.

It reflects the bloc’s doubts that May will be able to get her deal through parliament before March 29.

“This would just give us more time to prepare for a no-deal Brexit,” one diplomat said.

That option would include a deadline of April 11 for Britain to inform the bloc if it would hold European Parliament elections due on May 23-26. If the answer was positive, the bloc could then consider a longer Brexit delay.

The EU is due to hold a big celebratory summit on May 9th in Sibiu, Romania, to chart its course for the future and does not want it to be overshadowed by Brexit.

Others in the room proposed to leave the date open or go for a long delay until the end of this year straight away, the sources said, stressing that the leaders have not yet agreed a common position.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald, Gabriela Baczynska, Jan Strupczewski; editing by Elizabeth Piper

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