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Will the Brexit delay be a year?

Donald Tusk favours a flexible Brexit extension no longer than one year. Credit: AP

As everyone already knows, the EU's president Donald Tusk is making the case for a long "flexible" Brexit postponement of no more than a year - but with the UK able to leave earlier if all legal and political conditions for Brexit are met earlier.

But, as you know, I do not believe that is what EU leaders will ultimately grant the UK, unless the prime minister outlines a different strategy than trying to persuade the Labour party and/or significant numbers of Labour MPs to back the Withdrawal Agreement via modification of the Political Declaration.

Because if the whole of her strategy is cross-party talks, then EU leaders will legitimately query why anything more than a short number of months of delay is necessary.

Cross-party talks between the Government and the Labour party continued on Tuesday. Credit: PA

And, after today's three and a half hours of discussions between ministers and their Labour opposite numbers (including, importantly, chancellor Hammond and shadow chancellor McDonnell) there are signs each side's Brexit red lines will never be reconciled.

So May will certainly be grilled by her EU peers on how she'll deliver a negotiated Brexit if even her risky and late gamble of alienating her own colleagues to take tea with the enemy were to flop.

Theresa May met with French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of Brexit talks in Paris. Credit: PA

Tusk still harbours a residual hope that the UK will change its mind and decide to stay in the EU. But EU government heads with whom power actually resides, and notably President Macron of France, legitimately fear that in practice a delay of a year would simply mean Brexit uncertainty squeezing out all other EU work till long after we're all dead.

So in the words of a well-placed source, unless May can point the "way forward" via a practical plan and an associated and plausible timeframe, it is very unlikely she will be given more than a few months of extension (which of course is what she seeks: victory at last!).