Pro EU protestor banners are fixed on a fence opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, April 8, 2019. Britain's government and opposition party are hoping to find a compromise Brexit deal ahead of further talks with European Union leaders.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

German official demands Brexit progress as May seeks delay

April 09, 2019 - 3:13 am

BERLIN (AP) — A senior German official demanded "substantial steps" forward in Britain's Brexit standoff and insisted on Tuesday that any further delay to Britain's withdrawal must come with strict conditions, as Prime Minister Theresa May prepared to plead for more time in Berlin and Paris.

Michael Roth, Germany's deputy foreign minister, said as he arrived at a European Union meeting in Luxembourg that "we are in a very, very frustrating situation here."

May's Conservative government and the main opposition Labour Party have been trying to find a compromise Brexit deal before EU leaders decide Wednesday whether to grant a second extension to the U.K.'s departure. If they refuse, Britain faces a sudden and chaotic departure on Friday, the deadline set a few weeks ago by the EU.

May has asked for a new delay until June 30. She is traveling to Berlin later Tuesday to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron. European officials are already signaling that they're not keen to give Britain a blank check, though they also want to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

"We expect finally to have substantial steps in the right direction — so far absolutely nothing has changed," Roth said. "We are of course considering an extension, also a longer extension, but it must be linked to very strict criteria," he added, insisting that Britain can't speculate about not participating in the May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament.

Roth said that "within the European Union, there isn't an endless readiness to keep talking about delays so long as there is no substantial progress on the British side."

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that officials in other EU countries "will want to encourage" the Conservative-Labour talks in London.

"But they'll also want to see a clear plan in terms of how an extension can deliver the result that we all want, which is a managed and sensible Brexit."

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