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Germany welcomes 'clear request' for Brexit delay

The European Council confirmed it received the letter from Britain asking for the delay, with leaders of the remaining 27 EU countries to decide on a possible postponement at their summit.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive at the Mozarteum University to attend a plenary session part of the EU Informal Summit of Heads of State or Government in Salzburg, Austria, on 20 September 2018. Picture: AFP

BERLIN - The German government welcomed the "clear request" from Britain on Wednesday for an extension to its planned European Union (EU) departure, just hours ahead of a crunch Brussels summit.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesperson Steffen Seibert declined to state Berlin's position on the bid by British Prime Minister Theresa May's to delay Brexit until 30 June from 29 March, saying the 27 remaining member states must decide unanimously at the gathering starting Thursday.

"First of all we welcome that there is a clear request from Britain and it is on that basis that the EU 27 can react Thursday and Friday," he told reporters.

"I can only advise you to wait for the negotiations at the EU summit on this issue," he said in response to questions about Berlin's stance on the request, predicting "intense debate".

Seibert said Merkel would "make every effort" to bring about a consensus at the summit.

Her foreign minister Heiko Maas of the junior coalition partner Social Democrats was less conciliatory.

"Theresa May's letter doesn't solve a single problem, it only pushes the solution further down the road," he told reporters.

"We have always said that if the (European) Council is meant to decide on a delay for Britain, then we'd like to know why and for what purpose."

The European Council, which groups the member states, confirmed it had received the letter from May asking for the delay, with leaders of the remaining 27 EU countries to decide on a possible postponement at their summit.

May needs more time because her lawmakers have refused to approve the deal she struck with the EU to leave the bloc.

EU leaders have expressed mounting frustration that Britain has failed to approve a clear Brexit plan as it hurtles toward the looming 29 March deadline to leave the bloc.

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