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EU Commission president nominee says open to further Brexit extension

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The choice of EU leaders for European Commission president on Monday said she would support giving Britain more time to negotiate its exit from the bloc.

The was part of a series of promises to persuade a lukewarm EU parliament to back her in the post.

Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen said she wanted to build a strategic partnership with Britain, whose politicians are still arguing about when, how or even if the divorce would take place.

She said this was more than three years after its citizens voted 52 to 48 per cent to leave.

Britain was due to have left the EU on March 29 but Prime Minister Theresa May was granted an extension to Oct. 31 after Britain’s parliament rejected the divorce deal she had agreed with Brussels.

“Should more time be required …I will support a further extension if good reasons are provided,” von der Leyen said in letters to the European Parliament’s socialists and liberals.

The documents also referred to “the ambitious and strategic partnership we want to build with the United Kingdom.”

The leaders of the remaining 27 EU states are highly unlikely to turn down an extension if Britain requests one.

Boris Johnson- frontrunner to succeed May on July 24- has said Britain would leave by Oct. 31 with or without an exit deal.

However, both Johnson and rival Jeremy Hunt want to amend the agreement that may reach 2020.

French President Emmanuel Macron said this month that Europe should not be scared of a no-deal Brexit and that if Britain’s new leadership asked for an extension beyond Oct. 31, it would have to provide something new to justify it.

In April, Macron blocked a one-year extension to Britain’s divorce talks with the EU.

He argued that EU leaders should not try to keep Britain in and so undo the result of its 2016 referendum.

EU lawmakers would cast their vote for commission president in a secret ballot on Tuesday.

This was amid worries that von der Leyen would fail to garner the absolute majority required.

The Greens have already said they would oppose her nomination.

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