Brexit delay for what? EU leaders want answers, Ireland says

FILE PHOTO: Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Ministry of Finance in Dublin, Ireland, February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Many European Union leaders want a clear idea of how Britain would use any extension to the Brexit process before granting a delay, Irish finance minister Paschal Donohoe said on Friday.

British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to seek to delay Britain’s March 29 exit from the EU, a decision which rests with the bloc’s members.

“Clearly given all that we have all gone through in watching the British political system grapple with the complexity of Brexit, there are many in the European Union that would want to be very clear on how this extension period will be used,” Donohoe told an audience after a speech at Bloomberg in London.

Some leading EU figures have called for the bloc to refuse any extension beyond May’s elections for the European Parliament, or at the latest beyond July 2 when the new EU legislature convenes.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Thursday that leaders will consider a long delay, possibly of at least a year, so Britain can find a way through its domestic deadlock.

Donohoe also hinted at a longer delay, citing the need for financial and economic stability. “I believe that it is highly important that we do all we can to avoid being in this scenario of rolling cliff edges,” he said.

“What we have said is that obviously the British government will need to decide, if they do want an extension, how long they will want it for, and we will be positive and constructive in relation to that, when they put it forward,” he said.

Asked if Ireland or the EU could do any more to help Britain over the line to sign its Withdrawal Agreement, Donohoe said: “We have done all we can do and are going to do.”

Reporting by Andy Bruce and Tom Wilson; Editing by Michael Holden and Hugh Lawson