EU leaders will fight for Brexit deal, but prepare for failure - Merkel

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A dogged but isolated Prime Minister Theresa May was headed back to Brussels on Thursday to beg for more time to deliver her Brexit plan, in defiance of the MPs who twice rejected the withdrawal deal.

Mrs May made the case for a June 30 extension in a 90-minute presentation to leaders of the other 27 member-states in Brussels, before leaving them to discuss their response in her absence.

But a shift to "soft Brexit" would infuriate the pro-Brexit wing of May's divided party, and a long delay would require Britain to participate in May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament.

The UK prime minister came under fire from all corners of her party as members of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs sent a letter to Downing Street setting out four demands for her to gain from this week's EU Council meeting in order to get her Withdrawal Agreement through parliament.

With just a week to go until Britain risks lurching out into legal limbo at midnight next Friday, EU leaders gave May an extra two months, until May 22, to leave if she wins next week's vote in parliament.

However, the Prime Minister's proposed withdrawal agreement has twice been rejected by Parliament, and earlier this week speaker John Bercow said for a third meaningful vote to be brought before the Commons the deal would have to be "fundamentally different - not different in terms of wording, but different in terms of substance".

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that a short Brexit delay "should be conditional on a positive vote next week in the House of Commons".

Asked if he was willing to consider revocation if it was the only way to prevent no-deal Brexit, Mr Corbyn said: "These are hypotheticals".

Any extension has to be approved by all 27 European Union members remaining in the bloc.

Fellow Labour lawmaker Wes Streeting said May's speech had been incendiary, warning on Twitter "If any harm comes to any of us, she will have to accept her share of responsibility".

European Union leaders are ready to give the United Kingdom a "short extension" of the pre-departure period if British MPs follow through on passing a deal that would be the basis of the post-Brexit relationship between London and Brussels.

The fact Britain won't leave the bloc on schedule on March 29 is "a matter of great personal regret for me", she said.

A huge number of MPs have directly challenged the leader over the past fortnight after the second failure of her Brexit deal, the paper revealed.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L) talks with European Council President Donald Tusk (R) during an EU Tripartite Social Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels, March 20, 2019.

The bloc is tired of Britain's political soap opera over Brexit.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt seemed to anticipate MPs taking this option, telling the BBC that "in a hung parliament MPs actually have to make decisions, because governments can not decide things on their own".

"I have received quite a lot of messages from constituents today who are supportive of her message and there are obviously others who are not but the parliamentary arithmetic is such that it is very hard to reach a consensus on what option to take forward in a positive way".

The former Belgian PM said, "I hope Mrs May will put the interests of her country ahead of United Kingdom party politics and I have said this to Mrs May and my friends in the Conservative Party".

European leaders will demand to know how May intends to use the extension to find a way out of the Brexit impasse.

"The Prime Minister's statement was disgraceful", said opposition Labour lawmaker Lisa Nandy, who represents a Brexit-supporting area.

In her letter, May said she meant to bring her deal back to the Commons "as soon as possible", arguing that if it passed, she would need the delay until June 30 to implement the treaty.

May told voters tired of a Brexit saga that has dragged on for nearly three years: "You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with".

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