Theresa May has sent a letter to the EU formally asking for Brexit to be delayed, after the government admitted the country was now officially gripped by “crisis”.
With just days to go until the U.K. is due to leave, the prime minister has asked for Article 50 to be extended until June 30 at the latest to give her more time to break the deadlock in parliament.
It came after pro-Brexit ministers spoke out strongly against a longer delay.
Speaking to lawmakers on Wednesday, May appeared to suggest she would resign rather than sanction a longer extension.
“As prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June,” she said.
She said a longer delay would lead to the “unacceptable” requirement for the U.K. to take part in elections to the European Parliament.
But Brussels has said it needs to know “the reason and the usefulness” of any U.K. request for an extension before deciding whether to grant it.
A spokesperson for Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, said on Wednesday that “patience wearing thin.”
Leaving without a deal on March 29 remains the legal default.
MPs have voted to rule out this option, but without a change in the law the UK will exit next week.
May’s letter was sent ahead of a crucial EU summit in Brussels on Thursday where any extension was expected to be agreed.
But a decision may be postponed to a second emergency meeting next week.
May’s plan to ask MPs to vote for a third time on her Brexit deal earlier this week was torpedoed by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow.
Bercow said it was against parliamentary rules for the government to repeatedly ask the Commons to vote on the same motion until it got the answer it wanted.
A spokesman for May said the decision by MPs to twice reject the PM’s deal meant the “situation has come to pass” that there was now a “crisis”.