LONDON: A dogged but isolated Prime Minister Theresa May was headed back to Brussels on Thursday to beg for more time to deliver her Brexit plan, in defiance of the MPs who twice rejected the withdrawal deal.
May’s fellow European Union leaders, meeting for their spring summit, say they will tell her that Britain can postpone Brexit until May 22, but only if she can win over British lawmakers next week.
If the withdrawal agreement is rejected again, an emergency summit could be called next week to agree a longer extension until at least the end of the year — otherwise, Britain’s four-decade-year-old European adventure comes to an abrupt end on March 29.
Time is tight, but there will be no decision on an extension in Brussels on Thursday, and May seemed to have done no favours to her efforts to persuade more MPs to back the withdrawal agreement on the eve of the summit when she blamed them for the impasse.
“All MPs have been willing to say is what they do not want,” she said, in a televised address that sought to reach over the heads of parliament to the British people and infuriated lawmakers on both sides of the House of Commons.
“I passionately hope MPs will find a way to back the deal I’ve negotiated with the EU, a deal that delivers on the result of the referendum and is the very best deal negotiable,” she said.
The deal could be brought back to parliament as early as Tuesday.
May wrote to EU Council president and summit host Donald Tusk on Wednesday to ask for a three-month delay of Brexit until June 30, but EU diplomats insisted that Britain would either have to leave before the May 23 European election or take part in the vote and stay in the bloc until at least the end of the year.
May, however, has insisted that she will not oversee a long delay, which would increase pressure at home for a general election or for a second Brexit referendum that might reverse the decision to leave.
“You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with this. I agree. I am on your side,” May told voters, blaming the MPs opposed to her Brexit plan and insisting she was requesting a delay until June 30 with “great personal regret”.