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France warns could vote against Brexit extensions

AFP  |  Paris 

France warned Wednesday it was prepared to vote against Britain's demand for an extension to its Brexit deadline unless Prime Minister Theresa May presents a credible strategy to fellow leaders.

May asked her EU partners on Wednesday to extend the deadline for Brexit from March 29 to June 30 to give herself more time to find a path through the political deadlock in London.

But French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that France could vote against the request when EU leaders meet in Brussels this week, reflecting growing exasperation in Paris and a desire to prevent the process from being dragged out.

"A situation in which Mrs May is unable to deliver sufficient guarantees on the credibility of her strategy at the European Council meeting would lead to the request being refused and a preference for a no deal," Le Drian told parliament.

A "no deal" exit -- in which Britain crashes out of the bloc without an agreement with its main trading partners -- is seen by analysts as likely to have a severe impact on businesses and investors.

But British MPs have twice voted against the Brexit deal that May negotiated with the 27 other members of the bloc, and it is unclear if they will be able to vote for a third time on the agreement.

"In the absence of a vote approving the withdrawal agreement, the main scenario is a 'no deal' exit," Le Drian said. "We are ready." All 27 EU members have to vote in favour of an extension to the Brexit deadline, in effect giving any member state a veto in the process.

Le Drian set three conditions for an extension.

Firstly, that it would be given only in order for British lawmakers to approve May's Brexit deal; secondly, that May should not seek to renegotiate the deal; and thirdly, that Britain should not participate in European Parliament elections on May 23-26.

The latter point reflects concern about the consequences of Britain remaining an EU member when the elections take place, which would lead to major practical and legal complications.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, March 21 2019. 00:25 IST