Pro-EU Mr Rutte issued a stark warning to the UK hours after MPs gave Theresa May the mandate to seek in Brussels a delay to Britain’s exit date from the bloc. The Dutch Prime Minister said his country is open to conceding an extension to Article 50, but will seek guarantees that the extra time will be used to break the political deadlock in London. He explained that while he sees fewer problems in granting a short, technical delay of a few weeks to implement a deal, he believes a longer postponement would be more difficult to grant.
He said: “If they want a delay the British need to explain how they plan to ensure a different outcome.”
Mr Rutte is the last of a series of EU leaders telling Britain an extension to Article 50 won’t automatically be granted following the vote in the Commons on Thursday.
The UK’s prolonged stay in the EU will have to be agreed unanimously by all the 27 remaining members of the bloc.
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The official of Emmanuel Macron’s office said earlier today the Elysee will only grant an extension to allow Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement to be implemented or if Britain brings forward a new Brexit plan.
They said: “Without clarity, an adoption of the withdrawal agreement or a clear alternative, a no-deal would prevail.”
And Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit representative, questioned the rights of the UK to be granted a prolonged stay in the EU to avoid a no deal Brexit.
Mr Verhofstadt said: “I am against every extension, whether an extension of one day, one week, even 24 hours, if it’s not based on a clear opinion of the House of Commons for something.
“Please make up your minds in London, because this uncertainty cannot continue.
“Not for us, not for Britain and certainly not for our citizens.”
On Thursday, MPs approved by an overwhelming majority of 211 a Government’s motion seeking to delay Brexit after Parliament on Wednesday voted to rule out a no deal Brexit in any scenario.
Under current UK law, Britain is still to leave the EU with or without a deal on March 29, as the MPs’ votes were not legally binding.