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

Lester Mason
October 18, 2018

The growing understanding on both sides is that by granting more time in the implementation period to agree a new UK-EU trade relationship would help avoid the more problematic issue of the Northern Irish backstop.

Still some issues remaining on backstop. But each has rejected the other side's solution.

Because of its timing, the summit in Brussels was billed long in advance as the "moment of truth" in the two-year Brexit process.

It comes after she attempted to convince European Union leaders yesterday that a Brexit deal is still possible after talks between negotiators stalled last weekend.

Britain says it has not asked for an extension, but May has not yet come up with proposals for unblocking the border logjam.

The Taoiseach said Ireland could look favourably on such a plan which would be helpful to everyone concerned as the implications of Brexit could require more time.

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

"I believe a deal is achievable and now is the time to make it happen", said the prime minister as she arrived at a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels. She has instead pressed the European Union to move on to talks on the future relationship, and secure a trade deal that could end the need for a backstop.

Earlier in the day, Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney welcomed the suggestion of a one-year extension clause for the 21-month transition period, which is due to end in December 2020.

Economists fear "no deal" Brexit would greatly disrupt trade, travel and manufacturers' supply chains in Europe, push Britain into recession and even have global consequences.

But a longer transition will be hard for the prime minister to sell.

"Many Conservative MPs are making clear to the government that we won't support legislation seeking to prolong transition and large payments for no good reason", said John Redwood, a Conservative Brexit supporter.

Shifting the timeline for Brexit back once again, and the prospect of a no deal ever nearer.


Tory MP Nadine Dorries repeated her call for former Brexit secretary David Davis to replace Mrs May as leader.

Despite the lack of progress, the mood music at the summit was positive. A deal must be sealed soon so parliaments have time to give their verdict on it.

"I hadn't expected a breakthrough, and there wasn't a breakthrough", Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said after the dinner.

"There's no need to dramatize matters".

"It is always the case in negotiations that they are tense and hard and challenging at the end".

But she failed to respond to a call by EU President Donald Tusk for "concrete proposals" of her own to move the talks forward.

Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, said May offered them "nothing substantially new" to discuss.

As she tries to hit those marks, May faces the daunting task of not only negotiating with the EU's 27 countries but also selling the terms of any deal to hard-line Brexiteers at home. Brexit must be orderly for everyone and for all the issues including the island of Ireland.

As for the chance that the United Kingdom might leave the union without a deal at all, Stubb said a no-deal Brexit "would be a catastrophe".

"There is a message of goodwill, readiness to reach an agreement".

It must also be approved by Britain's Parliament, where May lacks an overall majority.

"They have had 50 conferences since this Brexit fiasco, since the referendum took place", she said.

"Today we do not know what they want. That is the problem".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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