April 9, 2019 / 6:37 AM / in 12 days

EU open to Brexit extension but PM May needs clear plan

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - European Union ministers said on Tuesday the bloc was ready to grant Britain a second Brexit delay but that British Prime Minister Theresa May must come up with a clear plan of how to ratify the stalled divorce deal in the overtime.

FILE PHOTO - Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney takes part in a General Affairs Council on Article 50, in Brussels, Belgium March 19, 2019 REUTERS/Yves Herman

EU ministers are meeting in Luxembourg a day before 27 national leaders of the bloc will decide during afternoon talks in Brussels on whether to allow Britain another extension to try to break the deadlock in London over Brexit.

Without an extension, Britain is due to leave the EU at 2200 GMT on Friday, without a deal to cushion the economic shock.

German, Dutch, Irish and Luxembourg ministers made clear in comments on arriving to the meeting that a no-deal Brexit must be avoided.

“Everybody this week are open to an extension but they certainly want to see a plan attached to that extension,” Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters.

His Dutch colleague Stef Blok echoed: “It’s in the Dutch interest to avoid hard Brexit and if more time is needed to avoid no-deal Brexit, we should provide more time.”

“I really hope the UK will find a solution to avoid this no-deal Brexit. We are hoping for a specific plan from the UK side on how to avoid this no-deal Brexit.”

Luxembourg’s Jean Asselborn said the EU side would do “everything we can” to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

But the German Minister Michael Roth made clear that May must come up with a clear plan to convince EU leaders on Wednesday to postpone Brexit beyond the current cliff-edge date of Apr.12.

“I must unfortunately note that the conditions set... have not been met,” he said.

“We are of course thinking about an appropriate extension of the deadline and also about a longer extension. They must, however, come with very strict conditions,” Roth said, citing British participation in May’s EU parliament election as one such condition.

George Ciamba of Romania, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the EU welcomed Britain’s readiness to organize European Parliament elections in May, but made clear that was not enough.

“It is important for us to understand why the UK wants to stay (longer), you have to stay with a view to something,” he said.

“We have been in the same situation just a couple of weeks ago, we cannot afford to be discussing the same issue every two weeks without a plan,” he said.

Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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