France has warned that it will not accept “repeated” extensions of the Brexit deadline beyond 31 October, amid deadlock in the UK over the deal negotiated by Theresa May.
“We must not get sucked into repeated extensions, that’s for sure,” a French presidential adviser said on Friday.
The advisor told the Reuters news agency: “Our message is clear: a solution must have been found by October 31.”
The senior official did not categorically rule out a further extension, and expressed hope that talks between the Government and the opposition Labour party would provide a workable majority for Theresa May to get her deal through parliament.
“Maybe European elections will serve as a shock to reach a transpartisan deal,” they added.
As an EU member state France has a veto over any extension to Article 50, though in practice the leaders on the European Council have tended to find a mid-point compromise when faced with dissenting voices.
Earlier this year Emmanuel Macron was thought to be responsible for the length of the current extension to 31 October: following the summit officials in the room reported that most other member states wanted an even longer delay until March 2020, or would have had no objection to one.
Mr Macron was said to be pushing for an even shorter extension of a matter of weeks, but ultimately met the other member states in the middle to approve the Halloween deadline
EU leaders are mostly taking a holiday from Brexit at the moment, avoiding discussion of Britain’s departure at a meeting in the city of Sibiu, Romania, which took place on Thursday.
They are however expected to return to the issue at a long-scheduled June meeting of the European Council, where a limited appraisal of the situation is expected to be held.
It is understood that other member states also have concerns about a further extension past October, because of the uncertainty it would put upon the EU. EU officials have said the UK would have to have a good reason for another delay.
However, behind the scenes in Brussels, preparations are already being made for a further delay – including the redrafting of technical parts of the withdrawal agreement to include flexible dates rather than set deadlines.