Brexit: European Council adopts decision extending the period under Article 50

European Union leaders agreed on Thursday night to give Prime Minister Theresa May time to get the Brexit deal through the UK Parliament.

European Council president Donald Tusk said the extension of Article 50 agreed last night at the EU summit in Brussels meant any Brexit outcome was possible.

But there are also plans for MPs to press for votes on alternative Brexit options, such as a softer Brexit - which could seek a Norway-style deal with the EU, giving the United Kingdom full access to the single market and the European Free Trade area.

A source in the Spanish government added that the goal was to give Britain the maximum chance of getting May's deal approved.

"On April 12 we have to know where things stand. if we don't have a response by then we will have a no deal Brexit", Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel warned.

Underlying data showed the most signatories coming from areas that supported remain in the 2016 referendum, including Edinburgh, London, Bristol and Cambridge.

Britain's Electoral Commission has budgeted for European elections and could hold them at short notice but May has said it would be "unacceptable".

"Mrs May will resign before April 12 and, before April 12, an interim leader of the Conservative Party - I suppose it would be David Lidington, the deputy prime minister will say he will want to explore with the European Union an alternative".

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"National humiliation is imminent through these "indicative votes", said Conservative MP Steve Baker, who favours leaving without a deal.

If there had been a longer delay, it would have required Britain taking part in the European Parliament elections in May, something that it appears neither the British government nor E.U. leaders want to happen.

May's office made clear that she has no intention of revoking Article 50 and keeping Britain in the EU.

Mrs May could table secondary legislation which must go through the Commons and Lords by Friday to remove the date of March 29 from Brexit legislation.

The symbolic disarray mirrors that in Westminster as politicians enter the endgame in efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with the continent, ahead of Britain's formal exit from the club on 29 March.

More than 2 million people have signed an online petition urging the government to cancel Brexit, with support rocketing in the wake of Prime Minister Theresa May's statement Wednesday.

According to some reports, May could try to get her deal over the line by offering to resign if MPs approve it, which could win over some Brexit hardliners.

European Parliament elections take place across the EU, with or without the UK.

  • Michelle Webb