European Union says Irish border issue could prevent a Brexit deal

Elias Hubbard
October 20, 2018

"It is beyond acceptable that the British government is willing to play games with the lives of millions of European Union nationals living in Britain and British citizens living in the EU27".

There had been hopes this week's gathering of European Union leaders in Brussels - previously dubbed the "moment of truth" for Brexit - could overcome the impasse in negotiations.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker backed the plan as a "good idea", claiming "this prolongation of the transition period probably will happen".

An extended Brexit transition period is not an alternative to the EU's backstop proposal, Irish premier Leo Varadkar has warned. But let me recall that in her Florence speech in September 2017, Prime Minister May proposed a transition period of around two years.

It has compounded her problems with a large rebel faction within her own party, however, and other hardcore Brexiters who fear negotiation delays and agreeing to keep Britain tied to the bloc for longer could mean the country, which is deeply divided over Brexit, ultimately never leaves.

"But what we want to do is to work to get through that so that we can actually get to the deal that I believe will be good for the British people".

However, Brexiteers have reacted with anger at suggestions the UK's stay within the EU's structures could be lengthened beyond what had previously been agreed as a 21-month period.

While leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg described the move as a "poor attempt at kicking the can down the road", pro-EU MP Nick Boles said it would be "madness".

Both sides now think there's merit in keeping the United Kingdom inside the bloc's full membership rules for longer after it formally leaves, with an option to extend the 21-month transition period that's due to end in December 2020.

However, May's idea for an extension to the transition period was lambasted by Gabi Zimmer, GUE/NGL leader and member of the Parliament's Brexit Steering Group.

Business representatives attacked the failure of this week's summit to result in a Brexit breakthrough.

"The negotiations are very much about a solution and we have got to the point where they have become very technical but certainly it's something that is in the back of my mind as a potential effect if we get this wrong", he said. Otherwise it is a no-deal Brexit.

However, there was a more upbeat assessment of May's chances of securing a deal from German chancellor Angela Merkel. Boles added: "They are close to despair at the state of this negotiation", suggesting the PM is complicit in running the clock down for a "No deal" Brexit scenario.

In a lighthearted moment, they were joined by Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and his Luxembourg neighbor Xavier Bettel, who is said to have picked up the tab because he was celebrating his re-election on Sunday.

The prime minister remained bullish of a Brexit deal coming eventually.

Yesterday, British Prime Minister Theresa May and other European Union leaders voiced renewed confidence that they could secure a Brexit deal, yet the two sides remain at odds over how to deal with their only land border, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"Theresa May must now act in the national interest, not her party interest, and break the deadlock by delivering a deal that protects jobs and living standards".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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