BERLIN – The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday in another last-minute Brexit trip.
May was trying to shore up support on the continent for a delay to the Brexit negotiation period, from April 12, as it currently stands, to June 30, her suggested a date.
She was also trying to lay the groundwork ahead of an extraordinary European Council meeting that is to center on the UK’s rupture from the group.
However, the meeting got off to a slightly delayed start at the German chancellery as Merkel was not expecting her to arrive at the hour she did, meaning the British Conservative Party leader had to walk up the red carpet by herself.
Merkel appeared at the entrance shortly after and apologized for the delay.
“Ahead of EU Council tomorrow, the leaders discussed the UK’s request for an extension of Article 50 to June 30th with the option to bring this forward if a deal is ratified earlier,” a Downing Street spokesperson said, in reference to the article of the Lisbon Treaty that had set in motion a two-year period of negotiations.
“The leaders agreed on the importance of ensuring Britain’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union,” they added.
Steffen Seibert, the German government spokesman, shared an image of the two leaders in conversation during the meeting and, at the beginning of the encounter, said: “There are good reasons to talk.”
Merkel is one of the European Union leaders who has been seemingly most receptive to an extension to the Brexit period.
The UK was initially meant to leave the EU on March 29, but that period was extended to either May 22 or April 12, depending on whether or not May, whose government is disadvantaged by a parliamentary minority, was able to get approval for her unpopular withdrawal bill.
It has been voted down three times by the House of Commons, the UK’s lower chamber.
As agreed with the EU, May must offer a new strategy or the UK risks crashing out without a deal on April 12.
To that end, she has decided to collaborate with the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, given the lack of support in her own Tory ranks and from her confidence and supply partners in the Northern Irish DUP.
The delay will have to be backed by all 27 remaining EU countries.
However, Michel Barnier, the EU Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, said any extension to the negotiation process would depend on what aims the UK was suggesting, apparently leaving the door open to a longer delay.
“Any extension should serve a purpose,” he said.
“The length should be proportional to the objective. The length should be proportional to the objective. Our objective is an orderly withdrawal. ‘No-deal’ will never be the EU’s decision. In order to avoid ‘no-deal’, the UK needs to agree to a deal,” he added.
May is due to travel to Paris to meet with the French president, Emmanuel Macron.
The UK voted to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum.