Skeptical EU leaders to hear May’s plea for a 3-month Brexit delay

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a statement, at 10 Downing Street, in London, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. May says it's a matter of "great personal regret" that U.K. won't leave the EU with a deal on March 29. (Jonathan Brady/Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Prime Minister Theresa May was trying to persuade European Union leaders on Thursday to delay Brexit by up to three months, with her plans to leave the bloc in chaos just eight days before Britain’s scheduled departure.

May will meet the 27 national other EU leaders in Brussels, a day after she wrote requesting an extension to the Brexit deadline until June 30.

The bloc is weary of Britain’s political soap opera over Brexit. EU Council chief Donald Tusk, who is overseeing the summit, said a short delay should be possible, but only if Britain’s Parliament approves May’s divorce deal with the EU before the scheduled March 29 departure date.

That is a tall order. The deal has twice been rejected twice by hefty margins in Britain’s Parliament, amid opposition from pro-Brexit and pro-EU lawmakers.

May said lawmakers now face a “final choice” between her deal, a no-deal departure that could hammer the economy, and cancelling Brexit.

But the prime minister angered many legislators with a televised speech late Wednesday blaming Parliament for the Brexit impasse.

May told voters weary of a Brexit saga that has dragged on for almost three years: “You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side.”

She didn’t accept a role in causing the impasse, but blamed Parliament and warned that if lawmakers didn’t back her deal it would cause “irreparable damage to public trust.”

Pro-EU Conservative lawmaker Sam Gyimah called May’s comments “toxic.”

“Resorting to the ‘blame game’ as the PM is doing is a low blow,” he said.

Main U.K. opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is also meeting senior EU officials in Brussels, trying to persuade them that Parliament can find an alternative to May’s rejected plan.

“I believe it should be possible to agree a deal with the EU that secures a close economic relationship before the European Parliament elections,” Corbyn said.