Germany, France and Holland made it clear they would not bow to Britain’s demands for a three-month delay if the Prime Minister could not offer a credible reason why extra time would lead to a deal. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said Mrs May had provided “only part of a plan” when she penned the humiliating request to the bloc, while Paris said it would refuse the extension if a concrete solution was not offered. Mr Rutte said “intense discussions” needed to take place before the EU summit on April 10 when European leaders will decide whether the request should be honoured.
He said: “The plan was that the British would explain what they wanted from the EU.
“A letter was sent today which, as far as I am concerned, doesn’t answer this request. I hope it will be possible to give the answers to these questions.”
Mr Rutte said the letter contained “no full plan, there was only part of a plan” and said he hoped Mrs May’s Government “will provide more clarity before Wednesday”.
France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire said President Macron would need to know the exact reasons why the UK needs extra time before he could agree to delay Brexit until June 30.
Mr Le Maire said: “If we are not able to understand the reason why the UK is asking for an extension, we cannot give a positive answer.”
One of Mr Macron’s aides said on Friday it was “premature to talk of an extension” while the EU awaited a “credible alternative plan” which it has requested from Britain.
Mrs May’s letter was met with equal scepticism in Germany, where Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the German parliament, accused her of “domestic tactical manoeuvring”.
And the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said London still had “many questions” left to clarify.
He said: “We will come together with our European colleagues at the next council meeting and come to an opinion over the question of an extension and how long such an extension should be”.
If the EU refuses to extend Article 50, Britain risks crashing out of the bloc on April 12 without the security of a deal.
But if the Prime Minister manages to get her deal through Parliament, it’s likely a Brexit delay would be granted until May 22 – the day before European elections.
In order for Mrs May’s request to be granted, all of the other 27 member states must agree to it.
European Council president Donald Tusk has said a year-long “flextension” remained “the only reasonable way out” of the Brexit impasse.
But his idea was shot down by EU leaders including Mr Macron, who said the UK deserved to leave “in a disorderly manner” if it failed to provide a clear plan.