LONDON (Reuters) - Slovenia’s president said his country and many other European Union states would be open to extending the date Britain is due to leave the bloc, a possibility British Prime Minister Theresa May has raised amid deadlock in parliament.
Under pressure from pro-EU ministers, May this week promised lawmakers they would get a vote over whether to seek an extension to Britain’s March 29 exit date to allow further talks if they reject a revised Brexit deal this month.
Asked if Slovenia would be open to delay Brexit for a couple of months, a decision which must be agreed by all the other 27 EU states, President Borut Pahor said: “I think Slovenia and a lot of other countries would say yes. Nobody wants to see a hard Brexit in any kind of chaotic way.
“I think that extension of time would be an option,” Pahor, who is visiting Britain, told Sky News in an interview aired on Saturday.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said on Friday that any extension must be intended specifically to solve the deadlock over the Irish backstop, an insurance policy to prevent the return of border controls between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland.
Fears that the backstop could keep Britain tied to EU regulations for years after Brexit is the main point of contention for many British lawmakers, leading to May’s deal being overwhelmingly rejected by parliament in January.
“The question that the EU27 will ask is: What (is it) for? The answer cannot be that Britain wants to postpone a problem. One would want to solve it,” Barnier said in an interview with Germany’s Die Welt newspaper to be published on Saturday.
Pahor echoed the view that a delay would not make a compromise easier to find and there needed to be clarity and consensus among British lawmakers.
“It is not clear at the moment if the United Kingdom has a clear position on some sort of compromise solution,” he said.
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alexander Smith