EU says it will only accept 'credible' reason for Brexit delay after MPs reject Theresa May's deal
Britain must have a "credible" reason to delay Brexit, European Council President Donald Tusk has warned after MPs rejected Theresa May's deal.
In a statement issued minutes after the Prime Minister's deal was again voted down by MPs, a spokesperson for the Brussels chief said the EU would only consider a "reasoned" request for extending Article 50.
"Should there be a UK reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 will consider it and decide by unanimity," a spokesperson for Mr Tusk said.
"The EU27 will expect a credible justification for a possible extension and its duration. The smooth functioning of the EU institutions will need to be ensured."
The statement came as MPs prepared to vote on whether or not they support leaving the EU without a deal.
Mrs May confirmed on Tuesday that she would not whip Tory MPs against a no-deal Brexit, instead allowing a free vote on leaving without an agreement.
If MPs reject that outcome, they will be asked to vote on Thursday on whether or not they support seeking an extension to Article 50.
But Mr Tusk's spokesperson made clear that Brussels was unlikely to give further ground to help Mrs May get her beleagured deal through.
"We regret the outcome of tonight's vote and are disappointed that the UK government has been unable to ensure a majority for the Withdrawal Agreement agreed by both parties in November," they said.
"On the EU side we have done all that is possible to reach an agreement.
"Given the additional assurances provided by the EU in December, January and yesterday, it is difficult to see what more we can do.
“If there is a solution to the current impasse it can only be found in London."
The latest Commons defeat for Mrs May's deal came despite the Prime Minister agreeing changes to her deal in a bid to persuade Tory MPs and the DUP that Britain would be able to unilaterally quit the Northern Ireland backstop if the plan to avoid a hard border was triggered.
Speaking after the vote, she told MPs: "I profoundly regret the decision that this House has taken tonight.
"I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is that the UK leaves the EU in an orderly fashion with a deal, and that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed the only deal available."