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Brexit: Theresa May to meet Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

Brexit: Theresa May to meet Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

"Therefore I propose that we consider Prime Minister May's request for an extension at our meeting tomorrow", he said in his invitation letter to the European Union leaders.

"We've never been closed to the idea of finding an alternative solution to "no deal" within certain limits and not at any price", the aide said on condition of anonymity.

"The UK would be free to leave whenever it is ready", he said.

On a charm offensive with key leaders, May flew first to Berlin Tuesday to plead for good terms with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and then set off for Paris for an encounter with President Emmanuel Macron, seen as her counterpart with the toughest demands.

In a further sign of the constraints on Mrs May, Brexiteer Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt warned a long delay to Brexit would be unacceptable to the public and businesses which were already "having to prepare for a whole raft of eventualities".

This, he said, would avoid a rolling series of short extensions, which "would nearly certainly overshadow the business of the EU27 in the months ahead".

While the European Union is not ultimately expected to trigger such a potentially disorderly no-deal exit, diplomats said all options were on the table - from refusing a delay to granting May's request or pushing for a longer postponement.

"No re-opening of the Withdrawal Agreement; no start of the negotiations on the future, except for the Political Declaration; the United Kingdom would have to maintain its honest cooperation also during this crucial period, in a manner that reflects its situation as a departing member state", the letter said.

A "flextension" until the end of the year or until March 2020, under which Britain could leave much sooner if its warring political tribes can find a majority, was shaping up to be the most likely, European Union diplomats said, after envoys met in Brussels late on Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday evening's summit with May.

Following a meeting of the EU's General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, diplomats said "slightly more than a handful" of member states spoke in favour of delaying Article 50 until 30 June but the majority were in favour of a longer extension.

The Labour MP resisted calling for it to take place until it is all finished, but questioned whether or not Britain's consistution is still fit for goal because it did not appear to be holding the prime minister to account.

Ireland, which has much to lose if its larger neighbour quits the block without a deal, has been most supportive of an extension, but Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, also insisted on the need for conditions.

And they suspect Theresa May wants them to do her dirty work for her.

A senior EU source suggested that if Mr Macron is forced to agree to one by other European leaders any extension will come with a long list of preconditions.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, urged May and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn to strike a deal that will keep Britain in a customs union with the EU.

So far, MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement Theresa May reached with other European leaders past year. Members of her own party are openly plotting her downfall.

Meanwhile, the latest round of talks between Labour and the Conservatives aimed at breaking the impasse in Parliament have finished for the day with both sides expressing hope there would be progress.

Shadow business minister Rebecca Long-Bailey, a member of Labour's negotiating team, said while it was "disappointing" that there had not been any shift in the Government's red lines last week, "the overall mood is quite a positive and hopeful one". Talks resume on Thursday.