Theresa May is holding last-minute Brexit talks with the leaders of Germany and France, with the UK due to leave the EU in three days’ time. Mrs May met Angela Merkel in Berlin, and will meet Emmanuel Macron in Paris, as she urges both to back her request to delay Brexit again until 30 June. After the talks, Ms Merkel said a delay that runs to the end of the year or the start of 2020 was a possibility. There is a summit on Wednesday when all EU states will vote on an extension. Cross-party talks in Westminster aimed at breaking the impasse are also continuing. The negotiating teams include Chancellor Philip Hammond, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, with the Labour frontbencher saying they hoped to “broaden the talks”. But in a leaked letter seen by the Telegraph, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has warned that agreeing with Labor over its demand for a customs union is the “worst of both worlds” and will leave Britain unable to set its own trade policy. The UK is currently due to leave the EU at 23:00 BST on Friday. Downing Street said Theresa May and Ms Merkel discussed the UK’s request for an extension of Article 50 the process by which the UK leaves the EU to 30 June, with the option to bring this forward if a deal is ratified earlier. The prime minister and Chancellor Merkel agreed “on the importance of ensuring Britain’s orderly withdrawal”, a statement said. Ms Merkel said EU leaders would discuss a “flextension” a one-year flexible extension at Wednesday’s summit.
Following a meeting of the EU’s General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, diplomats said “slightly more than a handful” of member states spoke in favor of a delay to 30 June and a majority were in favor of a longer extension. Brussels reporter Adam Fleming said no maximum end extension date was agreed, although December 2019 and March 2020 were mentioned. Conditions of a delay were discussed including UK participation in May’s European Parliament elections, no re-opening of the withdrawal agreement and how to guarantee the UK’s pledge of “sincere co-operation” in ongoing EU business. So far, MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement Mrs May reached with other European leaders last year. One of most contentious parts of the plan is the Irish backstop an insurance policy that aims to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland. The EU has continually said it will not re-open the withdrawal agreement for negotiations, but Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom renewed her plea for them to look again. On Monday evening, Parliament passed a bill brought by Labor MP Yvette Cooper, which aims to force the prime minister to request a Brexit extension rather than leave the EU without a deal on Friday, which is the default position. The government opposed the bill, saying it was unnecessary as Mrs May was already seeking an extension. But the backbenchers behind it wanted to ensure it became law to prevent any changes in her strategy. As a result, MPs are debating a government motion asking MPs to approve the PM’s request to the EU to delay Brexit.