France says 'premature' to consider further Brexit delay: presidency

The Elysee Palace in Paris, office of the French president, with the Eiffel Tower across the River Seine visible in the background (AFP Photo/Eric Feferberg)

Paris (AFP) - France considers it "premature" to discuss an additional delay to Britain's exit from the European Union, demanding that London present "a clear plan" that would justify pushing Brexit back again, a French presidency source said Friday.

France had "taken note" of Britain's formal request Friday for an extension to June 30, the source said, adding: "We are waiting for a credible plan between now and the (EU) summit on April 10, when we will study the request."

"A delay is a tool, but not a solution in itself," the source said.

In a letter, British Prime Minister Theresa May told EU Council president Donald Tusk that she wanted to ensure her country left the bloc in an "orderly way", as she fights to have the current exit deal approved by parliament.

The EU has already agreed to move back the original March 29 deadline to April 12 to give May more time to win backing from MPs for a deal. British lawmakers have already rejected the deal she negotiated with the EU three times.

Earlier Friday, an EU official said Tusk would suggest to member states that they offer Britain a flexible 12-month delay to Brexit, removing some of the pressure on May to ram through a deal by next Wednesday's summit meeting.

But a French diplomatic source appeared to pour cold water on that idea as well, calling "the rumours about such an extension a clumsy trial balloon."