Merkel warns European Union is likely to agree to lengthy Brexit delay

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But he said the key thing was for Britain to have the option to leave the European Union as soon as a Brexit divorce deal was approved by parliament.

Theresa May's decision to delay Brexit has cost her a commanding lead against Labour, according to a new poll.

May will meet with Tusk before the start of Wednesday's Summit and another bilateral rendezvous is expected as soon as the EU-27 reaches an agreement on their position once the cocludes.

May's strategy was boosted by a vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday when MPs voted by 420 to 110 to request an extension of article 50 until June 30, a comfortable majority of 310.

But others - notably Germany and Britain's close neighbour Ireland - worry that if May runs out of time then a dramatic "no deal" Brexit would do more harm in the long run.

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European Council president Donald Tusk is recommending a longer delay of up to a year - with an option of leave earlier if there is an agreement in the Commons.

He called for the European Council to discuss an alternative, longer extension, such as a "flexible extension" lasting "as long as necessary and no longer than one year".

However, 97 Conservatives rebelled by opposing the plan, including former Brexit Secretaries David Davis and Dominic Raab.

Discussions in Brussels are to focus on the length of the delay - the French source said a 12-month extension "seems too long" - and arrangements to limit Britain's influence within the EU.

"The longer the extension might be, the more guarantees are needed", the French official said, speaking on condition he not be named in keeping with presidential policy. And the EU27 would avoid repeated Brexit summits.

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Mr Tusk's letter came after the PM arrived in Paris for talks with Mr Macron, who in recent days has warned that an extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process is not guaranteed.

EU members want to ensure that a semi-detached Britain does not seek leverage in Brexit talks by intervening in choosing the next head of the European Commission or the next multi-year EU budget.

The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this week that May was considering offering lawmakers a vote on whether to hold a confirmatory public vote on her Brexit deal in a bid to break the deadlock in talks with the opposition Labour Party.

But there were signs of resistance in Mrs May's Cabinet to compromise with Labour, with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox warning that a customs union would leave the United Kingdom "stuck in the worst of both worlds".

Meanwhile in Westminster, Labour claimed the Government had not yet made a "clear shift" in its position in cross-party talks created to break the impasse.

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