The European Union opened the door on Monday to Britain postponing its exit from the bloc beyond the March 29 deadline, as the main opposition Labour Party said it could eventually support a second referendum.
European Council President Donald Tusk said he had discussed the “legal and procedural context of a potential extension” when he met on Sunday with British Prime Minister Theresa May, on the sidelines of an EU-Arab summit in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh.
“I believe in the situation we are in, an extension would be a rational solution but Prime Minister May still believes she’s able to avoid this scenario,” Tusk told a closing summit press conference.
The EU has been watching with growing alarm the possibility that Britain will crash out of the bloc without a deal, risking chaos on both sides of the Channel.
Britain remains as divided as ever over Brexit, which a narrow majority of voters called for in a June 2016 referendum. May sparked outrage at home when she suggested on Sunday that parliament may not be able to vote on her Brexit deal until March 12, just 17 days before Britain leaves the EU.
The decision increases the chances that lawmakers will in a series of votes this week move to delay Brexit beyond March 29, to avoid a no-deal Brexit. The opposition Labour Party on Monday raised the pressure, saying it would put forward its own plan for Brexit, which calls for Britain to stay in the EU customs union, as part of those votes.
Labour then said if its plan was rejected, it would lend its support to an amendment on holding a second referendum on EU membership – without specifying a date.
“We are committed to... putting forward or supporting an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement.
Taking a united stand, the EU and its remaining 27 countries have repeatedly rebuffed May’s efforts to reopen the Brexit deal struck with her government in November.
Tusk said “we’ll face an alternative chaotic Brexit or an extension” under the current circumstances where it is “absolutely clear” to him there is no majority in the British parliament for May’s deal. Tusk said he told May that “no matter which scenario, all 27 (EU countries) will show maximum understanding and good will”.
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