Juncker: extension of Brexit transition period 'probably will happen'

Elias Hubbard
October 20, 2018

However, there was a more upbeat assessment of May's chances of securing a deal from German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Sinn Féin leader May Lou McDonald said there could be no excuse "for a return to conflict under any circumstances or provocation".

"We have identified all potential scenarios from a technical point of view", French President Emmanuel Macron said as the summit wrapped up. Any deal that is struck needs time to be approved by the British and European Parliaments. Tusk on Tuesday called on May to bring new, concrete proposals to Brussels on the Irish border question, but May did not present anything new in her speech.

"But the point is this is not expected to be used because we are working to ensure that we have that future relationship in place by the end of December 2020".

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.

Mrs May told leaders of the remaining European Union member states in Brussels that she was ready to consider an extension by "a matter of months" of the transition period, which is now due to stretch until December 2020.

The 27 leaders then refused to sign off on a special November summit planned to seal the divorce deal, pushing any agreement back to a December summit - just four months before Brexit.

Her concession of a longer transition is part of a bid to break a deadlock over how to avoid border checks being reimposed along the 500-kilometer frontier separating the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland when Britain leaves the European Union.

An EU official, who spoke to Germany's dpa news agency on the condition of anonymity, also said May had said she was "ready to consider" an extension to the 21-month transition period after Brexit.

But the two sides disagree on how to resolve the issue.

"This prolongation of the transition period probably will happen", Juncker said.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said he, too, was more optimistic than after a bad-tempered EU summit last month and stalled negotiations last weekend.

The transition - during which the United Kingdom would remain in the single market and customs union and subject to EU rules - is meant to provide time for authorities and officials to prepare for new arrangements following the official date of Brexit in March 2019.

A senior British official confirmed Thursday that London's position has not changed, although Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar suggested there might be room for compromise.

Despite all this, Mrs May says she is still convinced she will get a deal on Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

"I believe we need a deal".

"I think, of course, we haven't got anyone that is courageous enough to do that, apart from the people".

He acknowledged that "it may be a more emotional impression than a rational one". "We have shown we can do hard deals together constructively".

The mooted extension to the transition period is a new idea being put forward by the European Union to help Theresa May square the circle created by the written agreement last December and the draft withdrawal agreement in March.

When May first requested the transition period, she said it should be limited to a period of about two years.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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