Theresa May is writing to the EU to ask for Brexit to be postponed until 30 June with the option of a longer delay, cabinet sources say.
One minister told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg there was “no agreement” around the cabinet table.
Another source expressed frustration that the prime minister did not make a clear indication of the option she would actually argue for.
Under current law the UK will leave the EU with or without a deal in 10 days.
The prime minister says the UK will need a short extension to get the necessary legislation through Parliament, if MPs back her withdrawal deal.
She has warned Brexiteer Tories a longer extension will be needed if the deal does not get through Parliament – but any delay will have to be agreed by all 27 EU member states.
One cabinet source said the longer delay could be up to two years, but Downing Street sources said there was no final decision at cabinet on the length of an extension and a date had not been set.
Mrs May is heading to Brussels on Thursday to discuss the delay options with EU leaders.
Commons leader Andrea Leadsom is said to have criticised her cabinet colleagues, saying it is now a “Remain cabinet”, not a “Brexit Cabinet”, Laura Kuenssberg said.
MPs rejected Theresa May’s deal for a second time last week by 149 votes. They also voted in favour of ruling out leaving the EU without a deal, and in favour of extending the Brexit process.
The prime minister had hoped to have another try at getting MPs to back the withdrawal deal she has agreed with the EU this week – but Speaker John Bercow effectively torpedoed that with his surprise intervention on Monday.
What happens next?
- The PM is writing to the EU to ask for Brexit to be postponed
- Mrs May will travel to an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the delay options
- All 27 EU members have to agree to any extension proposed
- If an extension is agreed, Mrs May will probably try to get her deal – that was previously heavily defeated – through Parliament
- MPs and peers will also get a vote on any delay
- Talks have been continuing with the DUP and Tory Brexiteers who voted against the deal
- The government could seek to hold a third “meaningful vote” on the withdrawal agreement next week
- But the speaker has said he will not let MPs vote again if the question is exactly the same
- The UK leaves the EU on 29 March with or without a deal, unless a delay is agreed
He said he would not allow a third “meaningful vote” in the coming days on “substantially the same” motion as MPs rejected last week.
Mr Bercow declined to discuss the reasons for his decision when questioned by the BBC, as he made his way in to Parliament.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay suggested a vote could take place next week – after Mrs May has sought a delay to Brexit from the EU.
He said it was important to “respect the referee” and abide by his decisions – but, he added, Mr Bercow himself had said, in the past, that if Parliament was guided only by precedent then “nothing ever would change”.
Mr Barclay suggested that MPs would “find a way” to get another vote, if the government manages to persuade enough of them, including the 10 Democratic Unionists, to change their mind and back the deal.
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said the government was giving “very careful reflection” to the speaker’s “serious ruling” but suggested it didn’t “change the fundamentals”.
“The fundamentals are ensuring that there is support in Parliament to get the deal done, that’s the way we ensure Brexit happens,” he said.
Mr Brokenshire maintained the government would not bring the deal back to the Commons unless it was confident it would get its backing.
What is the EU saying?
“I will fight to the last hour of the deadline on 29 March for an orderly exit,” she told a press conference in Berlin. “We don’t have a lot of time for it but still have a few days.”
EU ministers are, meanwhile, meeting in Brussels to prepare for this week’s summit.
Germany’s Europe minister, Michael Roth, said they needed a “concrete proposal” from the UK on why an extension is required, while France’s Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau said more time was “not a solution”.
Taoiseach (Irish PM) Leo Varadkar and European Council president Donald Tusk released a joint statement after their meeting in Dublin.
“President Tusk expressed the strong and ongoing solidarity with Ireland of the European Council and European leaders,” their statement said.
“They agreed that we must now see what proposals emerge from London in advance of the European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday.”
European Commission chief Jean Claude Juncker is due to hold a press conference later.
What about the opposition parties?
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is due to meet the leaders of the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Green Party for talks on Brexit.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas have all released a joint statement calling for another referendum.
“The best and most democratic way forward is to put the decision back to the people in a new vote – with the option to Remain on the ballot paper,” they said.
Mr Corbyn will also meet members of the group of MPs calling for a so-called Norway Plus style of future relationship with the EU.