EU official floats 2-stage delay to Brexit

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European Union's Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the Commission, center, delivers his speech with European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, at right, and Former U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) leader and member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage, far left, during a session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. British lawmakers rejected May's Brexit deal in a 391-242 vote on Tuesday night. Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the EU without a deal. (AP Photo/Jean Francois Badias)

A senior European Union official is floating the possibility of a two-step delay to Britain's departure from the bloc, currently scheduled for March 29.

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Britain is expected to seek a short delay if lawmakers finally pass a twice-rejected EU withdrawal deal, or a longer one if they don't.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told Germany's Funke newspaper group in comments published Saturday that Britain must know why it needs a delay. He added that "as long as this isn't clear, Brexit can only be delayed for a few weeks, solely to avoid a chaotic withdrawal March 29."

Timmermans said: "During this time, the British must tell us what they want: new elections? A new referendum? Only after that can we talk about a several-month extension."