Not enough progress has been made on Brexit, EU leaders say

Elias Hubbard
October 18, 2018

Any further extension is likely to be fiercely opposed by Eurosceptics, who warn the United Kingdom would become a "vassal state" of Brussels, bound by its rules but unable to influence them.

Following a key session with 27 fellow European leaders in Brussels, the Prime Minister refused to rule out the extension - which will be incredibly unpopular with Brexiteers.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: "Mrs May's acceptance of an extension to the transition period will take us to the next general election which may mean we never leave at all".

"There are issues remaining around the backstop", May told reporters on Thursday, referring to the debate over how to form a customs border between Ireland - which will remain in the European Union - and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland, without establishing a hard border between the two.

Mr Varadkar said a longer transition period was not a substitute for a concrete agreement over the backstop.

"I fully support DD (David Davis) as an interim leader".

A deal was even reached between civil servants from the two sides, but it fell apart when Brexit secretary Dominic Raab met EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier on Sunday.

Conservative MP Nick Boles told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme that May is "losing the confidence of colleagues of all shades of opinion" who are "close to despair" at the state of Brexit talks.

Despite suggestions that London would seek a one-year extension to the two-year transition, Downing Street would not be drawn on the idea.

Not all Conservative MPs rejected the proposals outright.

RTE has reported that Mrs May has told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that she accepts that any backstop can not be temporary. "If not, what's the point?" they said.

He told Eddie Mair the British people should be given the chance to "sign off" on any final Brexit deal because they'd been promised "the moon on a stick" during the 2016 campaign.

When they asked her about Brexit, she is said to have responded: "Please, it's a wonderful evening".

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson called on the European Union and Mrs May to "take stock" on the issue and added "that extending the transition period is not ideal".

Analysis: May has little choice but to extend.

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Both sides stress that there was progress on other unresolved issues, such as how the withdrawal agreement could be governed, and any role for the European Court of Justice, and the mutual recognition of Geographical Indications, such as Champagne, and Welsh Caerphilly. Her so-called Chequers plan has already been rejected both by the European Union and her own party and the prime minister has not even begun the process of spelling out which of the alternative available options she is willing to accept. Both sides agree there must be no hard border that could disrupt businesses and residents on both sides and undermine Northern Ireland's hard-won peace process. Northern Ireland can either do this alone or with the rest of the UK. But speaking to the House of Commons earlier this week, May called the remaining disagreements "frustrating", particularly because they revolve around hypothetical circumstances. "I believe a deal is achievable and now is the time to make it happen", said May entering the summit.

"As far as we are concerned, the content is not yet acceptable".

Senior EU diplomats said no new progress have been made.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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