Michel Barnier has warned Theresa May that the EU wants to know what the “purpose” of delaying Brexit is, before it agrees to an extension of Article 50.
Theresa May is expected to send a letter to the EU on Tuesday evening or Wednesday, formally asking for a delay.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Barnier said EU leaders want to be sure that at the “end of a possible extension we are not back in the same situation as today”.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator added: “Extending the uncertainty without a clear plan would add to the economic cost for our businesses but could also incur a political cost for the EU.
“It is for the British government and parliament to decide very quickly what the UK wants to do next.”
“The real question is what is the purpose of it? What is it for?”
EU leaders will be asked to rubber stamp any delay when they meet for a crunch summit on Thursday.
Downing Street admitted today the country was now officially gripped by “crisis”.
During this morning’s cabinet meeting, Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox and Chris Grayling all spoke out strongly against a long delay, leaving open the possibility they may quit rather than support such a plan.
Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, is said to have angrily told colleagues: “This used to be the cabinet that would deliver Brexit and now from what I’m hearing it’s not.”
HuffPost UK understands the DUP is not prepared to back the deal in public unless it is convinced it can pass a Commons vote.
Leaving without a deal on March 29 – next Friday – 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 plan to ask MPs to vote for a third time on her Brexit deal this week has been torpedoed by John Bercow.
The Speaker announced 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.