Countdown to March 29th

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PRIME Minister Theresa May has written to the European Union to ask for a three-month delay to Brexit.

The UK is leaving the EU next Friday, on 29 March, but Mrs May wants that to be postponed until 30 June.

She says in a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk she needs more time to get her withdrawal agreement passed by MPs.

At yesterday’s parliamentary questions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused her of leading the UK into ‘crisis, chaos and division’.

‘We are still legally due to leave the European Union in nine days’ time,’ he told Mrs May at Prime Minister’s Questions.

He added: ‘Months of running down the clock and a concerted campaign of blackmail, bullying and bribery have failed to convince the House or the country that her deal is anything but a damaging national failure and should be rejected.’

May said MPs had ‘indulged themselves on Europe for too long’ and she had rejected calls for a longer delay to Brexit because she wanted to avoid the UK taking part in European elections.

However, the European Commission is telling EU leaders that the UK must take part in elections for the European Parliament if it stays in the EU beyond 23 May.

In a document seen by the BBC, the Commission says: ‘Any extension offered to the United Kingdom should either last until 23 May 2019 or should be significantly longer and require European elections.

‘This is the only way of protecting the functioning of the EU institutions and their ability to take decisions.’

As well, any delay to Brexit must be agreed by all 27 member states.

In her letter to Tusk, the prime minister says she had wanted to hold a Commons vote on her withdrawal agreement this week but had been prevented from doing so by Commons Speaker John Bercow.

She added: ‘It remains my intention to bring the deal back to the House.’

However, MPs warned May against ‘betraying’ during yesterday’s parliamentary questions.

Tory MP Peter Bone said that May had said ‘more than 100 times that Britain will be leaving on 29 March’.

He warned her that if she ‘continues to apply to extend Article 50’ she will be ‘betraying the British people’.

Bone continued, ‘It is entirely down to you. History will judge you at this moment … Which is it to be?

‘The prime minister said she has always wanted to leave on 29 March but it is better to leave with a negotiated deal with the EU.’

May added that Britain needs time to ratify a deal, but any extension cannot go on longer than the end of June.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford highlighted how the PM’s deputy David Lidington warned MPs last week that a short delay to Brexit without a divorce deal would be ‘reckless’. Blackford came back, stating that, ‘The people of Scotland need a choice over their future. If Westminster fails, Scotland will act,’ threatening UDI.