EU chief consulting leaders on Brexit extension

European Council President Donald Tusk speaks during a debate on the results of October EU summit at the European Parliament on October 22, 2019 in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AFP)

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, is consulting EU leaders about Britain's request to delay Brexit until January 31, a spokeswoman for the European Commission said Tuesday.

After British MPs voted to prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson from pushing the withdrawal agreement through parliament before the end of the month, Mina Andreeva tweeted that the Commission "takes note of tonight's result and expects the UK government to inform us about the next steps."

And she added that Tusk "is consulting leaders on the UK's request for an extension until 31 January 2020."

Before the vote, Johnson had repeatedly said that he will take Britain out of the European Union on October 31, with or without a withdrawal agreement.

He reached such a deal with EU leaders last week, but on Saturday he was forced by parliament to send Tusk a letter requesting that Britain's withdrawal be postponed for three months.

Such an extension would have to be unanimously approved by the other 27 EU national leaders and Tusk has said he will consult them.

"It's difficult to see how we get through this without a delay," a European official told AFP.

There are different views among the European capitals about the desirability of an extension, but most diplomatic sources in Brussels say they expect the 27 to agree to one.

Diplomats told AFP that Tusk may be able to secure agreement in writing, rather than by calling an emergency summit next week.

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