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Longer Brexit delay looms - but with EU warning

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Leo Varadkar says there is merit in a longer delay

Leo Varadkar says there is merit in a longer delay

PA

Leo Varadkar says there is merit in a longer delay

To Ireland's intense relief, European Union leaders are set to propose another Brexit delay - potentially into 2020.

Amid increasing frustration with the UK, the leaders are also demanding strong guarantees Britain will not disrupt the EU agenda while they await their exit after 45 years.

At another emergency leaders' summit in Brussels, many EU leaders signalled their willingness to avoid a no-deal Brexit due to happen tomorrow without any other arrangement.

However, even those who were more sympathetic to embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May stressed the need to ensure the EU institutions and their proper functioning were protected from any possible negative work by the UK.

"We have to ask what is in the interest of a good co-operation and what is in our interest," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on her way into the summit. "For us, it's important to have an orderly exit - and preserve the bloc's unity."

Merit

The UK already had a three-week extension, due to expire this week. As talks continued, diplomats said the remaining EU 27 states were looking at pushing Brexit back further, perhaps until December 31 or until March next year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar again supported Mrs May and signalled there was "merit" in a longer Brexit extension, provided it was not too open-ended.

"I want to end the uncertainty which is creating huge problems for citizens, for business, for farmers," he said.

"I think Europe would be better with the UK staying as a member and it would be better for the UK too."

However, the Taoiseach stressed that these were matters for the UK.

Mrs May has already had to concede EU demands to hold European Parliament elections on May 23.

The prospect of her returning with a longer delay than the June 30 date she was seeking will add further to a rebellious air among sections of her Conservative Party, some of whom fear a big delay will derail Brexit.