According to Reuters May had requested the EU defer Friday’s exit until June 30 but in Brussels a “flex tension” until the end of the year or until March 2020 was being discussed, EU diplomats said.
Such an option would allow Britain to leave earlier if the Brexit deadlock in London could be broken, though the EU will try to stitch in conditions that prevent any successor to May from making mischief as Britain heads to the exit.
France opposes an automatic long extension at this stage and if London wants one, Macron could demand May sign up to a legally binding undertaking not to cause trouble by vetoing EU decisions.
A draft of the summit conclusions seen by Reuters said Britain would be granted another delay on certain conditions. It left the end-date blank.
“The United Kingdom shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives,” the draft read.
A long delay to Brexit would put the entire divorce in doubt by opening up space for a second referendum and election, while harsh conditions would likely lead to a swifter end to May’s premiership.
European leaders fear a no-deal exit on Friday at 2200 GMT would spook financial markets, hurt the EU 27’s $16 trillion economy and undermine global trade.
“In my view, a short extension would not bring much,” said Detlef Seif, deputy EU spokesman for Merkel’s parliamentary group. “There is no appetite to return to a new European Council every six weeks to decide whether to renew the extension.”