May request fails to convince EU

Britain’s opposition Labour Party said on Friday that talks with the government on a last-ditch Brexit deal had made no progress, as EU leaders said Prime Minister Theresa May had not convinced them that they should let Britain delay its departure next week.

May wrote to Brussels asking European Union leaders to postpone Britain’s exit from next Friday until June 30. But they have insisted that she must first show a viable plan to secure agreement on her divorce deal in the deadlocked parliament.

Labour, which she turned to reluctantly after failing three times to get her deal passed, said the government “has not offered real change or compromise” in three days of talks.

“We urge the prime minister to come forward with genuine changes to her deal,” a statement said.

Labour Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said his party wanted the talks to go on, and a spokesman for May’s office said the government had “made serious proposals” in the talks and wanted them to continue over the weekend “in order to deliver a deal that is acceptable to both sides”.

May badly needs evidence of a viable divorce strategy to persuade the other 27 EU leaders at a summit next Wednesday to grant a delay, preferably on her preferred departure date.

Any extension would require unanimous approval from the other EU countries, all weary of Britain’s Brexit indecision, and could come with conditions.

“If we are not able to understand the reason why the UK is asking for an extension, we cannot give a positive answer,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. German Justice Minister Katarina Barley tweeted: “This playing for time must end.”

Deep divisions in May’s Conservative Party and government, and in Labour, have led to a marathon of votes in parliament, in which scenarios ranging from abandoning the EU with no transition period to cancelling Brexit have all been defeated.

Last Friday, May did the unthinkable by asking Labour to negotiate with her on a deal that might work for both – although some in Labour said she was luring the party into sharing responsibility for her failure.

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