January 16, 2019 / 11:35 AM / 6 months ago

Austria's Kurz ready for more talks with UK to stop disorderly Brexit

FILE PHOTO: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz delivers a speech during a debate on the results of the Austrian presidency of the E.U. for the last six months, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria would support granting Britain more time for negotiations to avoid it crashing out of the European Union with no exit deal, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Wednesday, though he stressed the current deal could not be renegotiated.

The UK parliament resoundingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal on Tuesday, prompting expressions of concern among EU leaders who say they are stepping up emergency planning for a possible ‘hard Brexit’.

Kurz said the EU could help to further clarify aspects of the withdrawal deal but that Britain needed to take the initiative and state clearly what it wants.

“Regarding the future relations ... there is of course the possibility of further defining certain points if this helps to avoid a hard Brexit scenario”, Kurz told a news conference in Vienna.

“The main target is to avoid a hard Brexit. If we need more time to reach that, then we should consider that option,” Kurz said, echoing a proposal by German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, though speculation has increased that the deadline may have to be extended to allow May more time to overcome deep divisions in her Conservative Party and in the UK parliament.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle and Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Michelle Martin and Gareth Jones

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