Theresa May says 'maybe' to transition period extension — European Union summit

Elias Hubbard
October 19, 2018

"Mrs May's Brexit betrayal slowly slithers into view", said UKIP leader Gerard Batten.

"What has now emerged is the idea that an option to extend the implementation period could be a further solution to this issue of the backstop in Northern Ireland", she said.

"I think that this is giving us some room to prepare the future relation in the best way possible", he told reporters after the summit.

EU Council President Donald Tusk has told May that "creative" thinking from Britain is required to avoid a hard border between EU member Ireland and the U.K's Northern Ireland, the issue that has brought divorce talks to a standstill.

Prime Minister Theresa May (left) and Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) during a visit to Belleek pottery factory on the northern side of the border between Enniskillen in Northern Ireland and Ballyshannon in Donegal.

The Labour leader went on to claim the Tories were too busy fighting among themselves to negotiate effectively with the EU.

Despite the stalemate, Tusk tried to sound upbeat in his press conference - a contrast to his remarks at the close of a summit in Salzburg last month when said May's plan for a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union would not work.

The next official European Union summit is scheduled for December, just over 3 1/2 months before Britain ceases to be an European Union member. Any deal agreed in Brussels needs to win approval in Parliament, where May doesn't have a majority and faces opposition on all sides. A soft Brexit, in which Britain stays closely aligned to the EU single market and the customs union, would trigger outright fury from a large chunk of the Conservative parliamentary party, not to mention the grassroots across the country who are even more pro-Brexit than their parliamentary representatives.

And one person familiar with the discussions said May's Tory party would find it hard to be fighting the next general election - due in 2022 - while the country is still inside the single market and customs union.

A Brussels summit wrapped up without progress after British Prime Minister Theresa May offered no new proposals, beyond suggesting she could accept a longer transition period after Brexit.

But the meeting that had been painted as a make-or-break moment for a Brexit deal ended with a whimper.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was "cautiously optimistic" that an agreement would be made "in the coming weeks".

But several leaders said it was up to May to act. With the November meeting canceled, the next European Union summit would come in December - a session that was timed to give all the legislatures involved enough time to ratify a deal.

Despite the lack of progress, the mood music at the summit was positive. In fact, those contingency plans are not just on standby for March 29, 2019, but are already being implemented. A deal must be sealed soon so parliaments have time to give their verdict on it.

"There's no need to dramatize matters. It's always the case with negotiations, that in the end there are challenges", Kurz said.

He also argued that Brexit talks should not continue after the deadline.

Arriving for a second day of summit talks in Brussels, May noted that both sides remained at odds over a "backstop" plan to avoid frontier checks in Ireland if and until a new trade deal could be signed. Brexit must be orderly for everyone and for all the issues including the island of Ireland.

Mrs May has argued the backstop should see the whole of the United Kingdom stay in a customs union with the EU on a temporary time-limited basis, after the transition period comes to an end.

Britain says it has not asked for an extension - but didn't rule it out Wednesday.

Reaching agreement with the bloc is only part of the British leader's problem. What I feel today is that we are closer to final solutions and the deal. CBC's Margaret Evans looks at what could potentially happen as Britain barrels towards Brexit.

"I want to see what the outcome is and the detail", they told BI.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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