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Theresa May Asks the EU to Delay Brexit Past March Deadline

British Prime Minister Theresa May gets into a vehicle as she faces a vote on Brexit, in London, England, March 13, 2019. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

British prime minister Theresa May announced Wednesday that she has asked the European Union to allow for a delay in Brexit past the previously established March 29 deadline.

After repeatedly vowing to carry out by March 29 the British electorate’s preference to depart the EU, May conceded that the date was too ambitious given Parliament’s refusal to endorse the plan she painstakingly negotiated with Brussels. May stipulated, however, that she was “not prepared to delay Brexit any further” than June 30.

Speaking from Downing Street on Wednesday evening, May said it was a “matter of great personal regret” that she was forced to ask European Council president Donald Tusk to delay Britain’s departure, but placed blame for the delay squarely on Parliament.

“Of this, I am absolutely sure: You the public have had enough. You are tired of the infighting, you’re tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows, tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit when you have real concerns about our children’s schools, our National Health Service, knife crime,” she said. “You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side. It is now time for MPs to decide.”

Tusk, speaking in Brussels, said the departure “should be possible” but maintained that the delay could not be used as a pretext to renegotiate the deal May secured months ago. That deal has now been voted down by Parliament on two occasions. May will put the deal up for a third vote after traveling to Brussels to negotiate an extension.

“If that vote is passed, the extension will give the House time to consider the Withdrawal Agreement bill. If not, the House will have to decide how to proceed,” May told Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn, who leads the opposition Labour party, called the parliamentary gridlock and resulting delay a “full-scale national crisis” while addressing Parliament on Wednesday.

“Incompetence, failure and intransigence from the prime minister have brought us to this point,” he said.

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