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Donald Tusk says a Brexit delay would be a ‘rational solution’

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Delaying Brexit would be a “rational solution” to avoiding a “chaotic” exit from the EU, the European Council President Donald Tusk said on Monday, in the clearest sign yet that the EU would welcome an extension.

Tusk said he had discussed the “legal and procedural context of a possible extension,” with prime minister Theresa May on Sunday.

“It is absolutely clear that if there is no majority in HOC to approve a deal we will face an alternative chaotic brexit or an extension,” he told journalists in Egypt.

“The less time there is until the 29th March, the greater is likelihood of an extension. This is an objective fact, not our intention, not our plan.”

“I believe that in the situation we are in an extension would be a rational solution.”

The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29. However, the prime minister once again delayed a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal this week in order to head off another heavy defeat.

MPs are now not expected to vote again on the deal until March 12, just 17 days before Britain is due to crash out without a deal.

Tusk said that May had resisted his suggestion of an extension saying that “Prime Minister May still believes she is able to avoid this scenario.”

However, in the clearest signal yet that the EU would approve a delay, Tusk also said that other EU member states would “show maximum understanding and goodwill,” to the proposal.

Tusk’s comments follow reports that senior EU figures now favour a lengthy extension of the Article 50 process through which Britain is due to leave the EU, of around two years.

“If [EU] leaders see any purpose in extending, which is not a certainty given the situation in the UK, they will not do a rolling cliff-edge but go long to ensure a decent period to solve the outstanding issues or batten down the hatches,” one EU diplomat told the Guardian.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said on Monday that the prime minister “does not want to [delay Brexit].”

Speaking in Egypt, May said that “any extension of Article 50 isn’t addressing the issues.”

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