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EU to seek until April 30 to ratify Brexit deal

FILE PHOTO: Flags of the Union Jack and European Union are seen ahead of the meeting of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in Brussels, Belgium December 9, 2020. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will ask Britain if it can take an extra two months to ratify the Brexit trade agreement by extending until April 30 provisional application of the deal.

The European Commission, which has overseen the Brexit talks and is in charge of trade policy for the bloc, said it had adopted a proposal on Wednesday to seek the extension. Provisional application was to have lasted until the end of February.

The Commission said the extension was required to ensure the agreement was available in all 24 EU languages for its scrutiny by the European Parliament and the grouping of EU governments called the European Council.

The extension would have to be agreed by Britain in the EU-UK partnership council, but it was not clear when that body would next meet.

Britain’s former Brexit negotiator, David Frost, told a House of Lords of Committee on Tuesday that he was aware of the extension request, adding he was not enthusiastic about it.

“We wait to see what that request constitutes and how long they wish to extend the process for. Obviously, it is a little disappointing given that we did discuss this only a month ago,” he said.

Without an extension, the European Parliament plans to hold a special session at the end of February to vote on the agreement. The debates and opinions of committees on the topic indicate EU lawmakers would back the deal, even if they feel it is being rushed through.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Marine Strauss and John Chalmers

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