Britain, EU agree to delay Brexit deadline until October 31

Leo Varadkar and Donald Tusk give their reaction after the Brussels Brexit summit

Leo Varadkar and Donald Tusk give their reaction after the Brussels Brexit summit

The blueprint hashed out during six hours of talks in Brussels allows the stay in the bloc until October 31 to provide more time for the British government to get the divorce terms ratified in Parliament.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to brief Parliament Thursday on the results of the emergency European Union summit that ended in the early hours with the bloc agreeing an extension to the country's departure until October 31.

The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations. Following this, she wrote to EU Council President Donald Tusk, requesting an extension until June 30.

Tusk, a former Polish premier who has long tried to keep a door open for Britons to change their minds and stay, said the delay until Halloween gave time for London to ratify Prime Minister Theresa May's deal, tweak elements of the future EU-UK relationship to opposition Labour party's liking, or give it a chance to "cancel Brexit altogether".

Britain was due to leave the bloc of 28 member countries on March 29 but May failed three times to get the divorce deal she negotiated with the European Union approved in Parliament.

She is blocked by a strong faction in her own Conservative Party that hates her withdrawal deal and hopes to oust her, and talks aimed at winning support from the opposition Labour Party are moving forward slowly, if at all.

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"She explained about the cross-party talks and made the point that, while such cross-party talks are a normal part of democratic life in most member states, it was not the case in the United Kingdom", said one participant at the meeting. Those efforts had yet to achieve a breakthrough, though the two sides said they would resume discussions Thursday.

Brexit was originally set to happen on 29 March.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the second Brexit extension in the space of a fortnight represents "not only a diplomatic failure, but is another milestone in the government's mishandling of the entire Brexit process". Economists and business leaders have warned that a no-deal Brexit would lead to huge disruptions in trade and travel, with tariffs and customs checks triggering gridlock at British ports and possible shortages of goods. But they can't force her out until the end of the year, after she survived a no-confidence vote in December.

Ian Blackford, the SNP's Westminster leader, urged Mrs May to use the extra time to hold a second European Union referendum. Scottish National Party Nicola Sturgeon said in a tweet after the extension was granted that the British people should be allowed to "decide if they still want to leave".

Presenter Robert Peston said of his interview with Mr McDonnell: "It is clear to me Labour is close to upgrading the referendum idea from option to formal first-choice policy".

People present at Wednesday night's crisis summit in Brussels said the prime minister appealed to her continental peers to appreciate the significance of her move to launch talks with her Labour opponents, saying the last united front between the two big parties in the fiercely tribal Westminster parliamentary system was when Britain faced a German "blitzkrieg" bombing campaign and invasion threat.

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