February 18, 2019
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – No one in Europe would oppose a British demand for an extension of talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union beyond the March 29 deadline, the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker told the Stuttgarter Zeitung in an interview.
With only weeks left to the exit date, Britain’s parliament does not want to accept the withdrawal agreement that has been reached between Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU, and many EU officials see postponing the exit date as the only way to avoid Britain crashing out without any deal.
“Any decision to ask for more time lies with the UK. If such a request were to be made, no one in Europe would oppose it. If you are asking for how long the withdrawal can be postponed, I have no time frame in mind,” Juncker told the German newspaper.
Many EU officials note that elections to the European Parliament on May 23-26 and the first sitting of the new parliament at the start of July creates a natural time-limit for any extension, which should not go beyond end of June.
Juncker also indicated a longer extension could be problematic, but did not exclude it.
“With Brexit so many timetables have already gone by the wayside. But I find it hard to imagine that British voters would again vote in the European elections. That to my mind would be an irony of history. Yet I cannot rule it out,” he said.
“When it comes to Brexit, it is like being before the courts or on the high seas; we are in God’s hands. And we can never quite be sure when God will take the matter in hand.”
(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Mark Heinrich)