Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, delivers a statement outside number 10 Downing Street following the terror attack in London, U.K. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

EU Draws Closer to Deal on Brexit Delay as Core Leaders Plan to Meet

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union is zeroing in on its offer to the U.K. on the length of a Brexit delay as a small core group of leaders discuss a plan to hold a meeting to decide Britain’s fate shortly before Wednesday’s crucial summit.

After several days of talks between diplomats of the EU’s 27 remaining governments, a compromise between France, which is very skeptical about extending Britain’s membership beyond April 12, and governments that think the U.K. should be given an extra year is beginning to emerge, four officials said.

It is now likely that the offer to the U.K. on its Brexit delay will fall somewhere between June 30, 2019, and April 1, 2020, the officials said. At a minimum that would be contingent on the U.K. holding European Parliament elections May 23, but France is leading a group of countries that wants further conditions to ensure the U.K. doesn’t disrupt EU business before it leaves.

“A positive decision hinges also on assurances from U.K. on sincere cooperation,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Monday on Twitter after speaking to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. May promised in a letter to the EU last week asking for an extension to June 30 that the U.K. would pursue “sincere cooperation,” but some governments think that doesn’t go far enough.

Leaders from countries most affected by Brexit are planning a “coordination” meeting Wednesday afternoon in Brussels, shortly before the start of an EU summit where all 27 will make a decision on the extension after hearing from May, two officials said. The group, which will probably include the heads of Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark and Spain, will seek to forge a common position on the delay and its conditions to present to their EU counterparts, one of the officials said.

Talks between EU officials will continue over the next 48 hours in Brussels and Luxembourg, where European affairs ministers from the 27 governments meet Tuesday morning. May will continue to press her case when she meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, also Tuesday.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.