Merkel says backs longer Brexit delay than London seeking

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during question time at the Bundestag, the lower house of parliment, in Berlin on April 10, 2019, ahead of the European Union summit on Brexit (AFP Photo/John MACDOUGALL)

Berlin (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that she was open to giving Britain more time to arrange its exit from the EU than the June 30 departure London is seeking.

Merkel told Germany's parliament ahead of a special EU summit in Brussels dedicated to Brexit that leaders may well agree to a delay "longer than the British prime minister (Theresa May) has requested".

She said she would meet French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the summit with the aim of hashing out a common stance on the length of a further extension.

"I am of the opinion, the German government is of the opinion, that we should give both (British) parties a reasonable amount of time" to reach an agreement on an orderly Brexit, she said.

"I think the extension should be as short as possible. But it should be long enough to create a certain calm so we don't have to meet every two weeks to deal with the same subject."

Without a postponement, Britain is due to crash out of the European Union at midnight on Friday under a "no-deal" Brexit that could trigger economic chaos.

May has embarked on a last-ditch battle to postpone Brexit from April 12 to June 30 so as to arrange an orderly departure -- but European leaders are expected to offer her a longer delay of up to a year.

Merkel, who met May on Tuesday in Berlin, stressed that it was in the "strong interest" of Germany as the EU's biggest economy to avert a disorderly Brexit.

A source from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union later quoted the chancellor as telling a party meeting that she viewed an extension of the Brexit deadline for "several months to early 2020 as possible".

But a French source said a 12-month extension "seems too long".

Merkel said Berlin had been "in constant contact with the French side, there will be a meeting today" with Macron "to again coordinate our positions".

"I think we will come to a conclusion that will not fail due to a disagreement between Germany and France," she said.