A flurry of Brexit activity early Friday morning saw both the EU and the U.K. move to lengthen the current timetable for negotiations, reducing the prospect of Britain exiting the bloc without a deal.
First, European Council President Donald Tusk proposed allowing the U.K. a 12-month “flexible” extension to leave the European Union, an EU source told CNBC. Tusk’s proposal, first reported by the BBC, would allow the U.K. the flexibility to leave the EU whenever British lawmakers approve and ratify a deal within the 12-month period.
However, leaders of the political and economic bloc would need to agree to Tusk’s plan at a summit next week.
Later on Friday morning, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May officially asked the EU another short extension. A letter from May to Tusk proposes an extension to June 30, which could be terminated early if a deal is agreed. A report from Reuters said the latter mentioned preparations for the U.K. to hold EU elections in late May.
At the moment, the U.K. is scheduled to leave the EU on April 12 and will be the first country to leave the bloc. The process to take the U.K. officially out of the EU began two years ago, but has yet to be finalized. U.K. parliamentarians have so far rejected the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the EU three times.
When asked about a possible extension, German Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “Hopefully, in the end we will have an agreement, because this is the best outcome for all the things that are going to happen.”
Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, said the U.K. needs to have a very good reason to ask for another extension.
“If we are not able to understand the reason of why the U.K. is asking for an extension, we can’t give a positive answer,” he told CNBC’s Silvia Amaro in Bucharest Friday, before May’s letter was officially sent to Tusk.
Meanwhile, May is expected to write to opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to lay out her administration’s offer on Brexit, the Guardian reported on Thursday. The letter would include a proposal to offer lawmakers the option to hold a referendum on any Brexit deal, the report said.
— CNBC’s Silvia Amaro and Stevie Young contributed to this report.