In Brief

Theresa May in whistlestop tour to seek Brexit extension

PM will meet Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron as clock ticks down

Theresa May will hold last-minute Brexit talks with the leaders of Germany and France today, to urge them to back her request to delay Brexit again.

With four days to go before the UK is due to leave the European Union, the prime minister will meet Angela Merkel in Berlin, followed by Emmanuel Macron in Paris. 

May is expected to urge her counterparts to accept her request for a delay until 30 June, despite indications from EU Council President Donald Tusk that a longer extension - going into next year - would be preferred by Brussels.

May’s meeting with Merkel is “the latest of no fewer than five similar emergency meetings hosted by Merkel over the past three years since Britain’s EU referendum”, The Guardian says.

The Times describes Macron as “Europe’s bad cop” on the issue but predicts that he will “fall into line”. 

Meanwhile at home, bilateral talks to seek a breakthrough on the domestic deadlock are also set to continue. 

A Downing Street spokesperson said Tories were “committed to finding a way through in order to ensure we can leave the EU and deliver on the referendum”.

Labour said that both sides would seek to “attempt to secure a Brexit compromise” but Jeremy Corbyn has complained that the government has not yet indicated where it was prepared to make changes.

He added that his priorities were “a customs union with the EU, alignment with the single market and full dynamic alignment of workers' rights, environmental protections and consumer standards”.

Last night, in another significant evening in Parliament, MPs and peers approved legislation that puts a legal obligation on the prime minister to seek an extension from Brussels in order to avoid a no-deal exit on Friday.

How long that extension is remains to be seen. The EU insists that any exit date later than 22 May would require European parliament elections to be held in the UK.

Although the government insists publicly that it is committed to avoiding that outcome, yesterday Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis emailed all the party's candidates, admitting: “It is clear that we need to make contingency plans.”

This was met with fury by Brexiteers. Sir Bill Cash, a longstanding Tory eurosceptic, declared that “all over the country there is a firestorm about the fact we could be involved in European elections”.

Bob Seely MP said he wished the news was a "week-late April Fool's wind up".

The UK is currently due to leave the EU at 11pm on Friday.

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