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UK, European officials discussing possible Brexit delay: report

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British and European officials are discussing the possibility of extending Britain's formal notice to withdraw from the European Union (EU) amid fears a Brexit deal will not be approved by March 29, The Daily Telegraph reported, citing unidentified sources.

[LONDON] British and European officials are discussing the possibility of extending Britain's formal notice to withdraw from the European Union (EU) amid fears a Brexit deal will not be approved by March 29, The Daily Telegraph reported, citing unidentified sources.

The Telegraph cited three unidentified EU sources as saying British officials had been "putting out feelers" and "testing the waters" on an extension of Article 50.

Asked about the Telegraph report, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May's Downing Street office said: "The PM has always said that we would be leaving the EU on March 29, 2019, and we would not extend Article 50."

The future of Brexit remains deeply uncertain as British lawmakers are expected to next week vote down the divorce deal that Mrs May struck with the EU in November.

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Business chiefs and investors fear that leaving the EU without an approved deal would silt up the arteries of trade, spook financial markets and dislocate supply chains for the world's fifth-largest economy.

The ultimate Brexit outcome will shape Britain's US$2.8 trillion economy, have far-reaching consequences for the unity of the United Kingdom and determine whether London can keep its place as one of the top two global financial centres.

Fifty-two per cent of those who voted in a June 2016 referendum, or 17.4 million voters, backed Brexit while 16.1 million, or 48 per cent, backed staying in the bloc.

Mrs May formally triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on March 29, 2017, ushering in a two-year period of negotiation on the terms of Britain's divorce from the EU.

The EU's top court, the Court of Justice, ruled last month that the United Kingdom can revoke Article 50 unilaterally, raising the hopes of pro-Europeans who hope to stop Brexit with another referendum.

REUTERS