UK Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday she would ask the European Union for a further delay to Brexit beyond April 12 to give her time to sit down with the opposition Labour Party in a bid to break the impasse over Britain's departure.
Nearly three years since the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in a shock referendum result, British politics is in crisis and it is unclear how, when or if it will ever leave the European club it first joined in 1973.
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In a hastily arranged statement from her Downing Street office after spending more then seven hours chairing crisis cabinet meetings on how to plot a way out of the Brexit maze, May said she was seeking a further extension to Brexit.
"We will need a further extension of Article 50, one that is as short as possible and which ends when we pass a deal. And we need to be clear what such an extension is for, to ensure we leave in a timely and orderly way," she said.
"I am offering to sit down with the leader of the opposition and to try to agree a plan that we would both stick to ensure that we leave the European Union and that we do so with a deal."
The pound rallied against the dollar as much as 0.3 per cent to above $US1.31. It also strengthened against the euro to 85.43 pence.
May said that if she could not agree a unified approach with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn then the government would agree a number of options on the future relationship with the EU and put them before the House of Commons in a series of votes.
The government, she said, would then abide by the decision of the House of Commons.
Her divorce deal with the EU has been defeated three times by the lower house of the British parliament, which failed on Monday to find a majority of its own for any alternatives.
The impasse has already delayed Brexit for at least two weeks beyond the planned departure date to 2200 London time on April 12.