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EU to grant Brexit extension only if it raises chances of UK deal approval

The European Union will grant an extension to the March 29 Brexit date only if it raises the chances of the divorce deal being ratified by the U.K., the EU's chief Brexit negotiator said March 19.

"What would be the purpose and the outcome of an extension?" Michel Barnier said in a news conference. "And how can we ensure that, at the end of a possible extension, we are not back in the same situation as today?"

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to ask the EU at a summit later in the week to delay the U.K.'s departure from the bloc, days after lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected her Brexit deal for the second time.

Barnier said European leaders will weigh the "reason" and "usefulness" of an extension and will need a "concrete plan" from the U.K. "Does an extension increase the chances for the ratification of the withdrawal agreement?" Barnier said. "Will the U.K. request an extension because it wants a bit more time to rework the political declaration?"

The political declaration sets out the framework for future U.K.-EU ties. Barnier said it could be made "more ambitious" in the coming days.

Barnier said that "extending the uncertainty without a clear plan" would increase economic and political costs for the EU. He added that all preparations for a no-deal Brexit scenario should now be finalized.

The House of Commons voted down May's Brexit deal 391-242 on March 12 and rejected a no-deal Brexit in a separate vote March 13. Lawmakers also approved a government proposal postponing Brexit until June 30 as long as a deal could be passed by March 20.

May has warned that the U.K. would need a much longer delay to Brexit if a deal is not put in place. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said March 18 that the chamber cannot vote again on her deal in its current form.

U.K. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay suggested another vote could take place next week, depending on May securing "clarity" from the EU on the "terms of an extension," the BBC reported.

EU diplomats say it is highly likely that EU leaders will unanimously grant some sort of extension rather than see the U.K. crash out of the bloc without a deal, Reuters reported.