Angela Merkel has vowed to fight until the “last minute” of 29 March to secure a Brexit deal as the UK prepares to ask for its departure from the EU to be delayed.
The German Chancellor said she was waiting to see the details of Theresa May’s proposals for an extension to the negotiating period, with Downing Street set to send a letter officially requesting a delay on either Tuesday or Wednesday.
European Council President Donald Tusk also said he was waiting for clarity after a meeting with the Irish leader Leo Varadkar in Dublin.
MPs last week backed a plan by May to seek an extension to the negotiating period beyond 29 March.
However, the possibility of seeking a delay until the end of June appears to have been defeated after Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled out a third vote on May’s Brexit deal unless there are substantial changes to the agreement.
That leaves May with the option of asking for a longer extension, with rumours of a two year delay to Brexit.
Speaking in Berlin, Merkel said: “I admit that I wasn’t on top of the British parliament’s 17th-century procedural rules” – a reference to Bercow citing a precedent set in 1604 for his decision.
She went on: ““I will fight until the last minute of the time to March 29 for an orderly exit.
“We haven’t got a lot of time for that, but still some days.”
Merkel added: “We’ll be watching very closely how the British government responds to what was said yesterday in the parliament and then respond to the situation. I can’t assess how things will be on Thursday, far too much is in flux.”
May will only get an extension if all 27 members of the EU agree to her request.
Speaking on Tuesday morning, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said May had predicted a "moment of crisis" if her deal was defeated by MPs last week – something they promptly did.
"Events yesterday tell you that situation had come to pass," he added.