Published: Wed, October 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

European Union leaders prepare hardball Brexit summit choice for UK's May

European Union leaders prepare hardball Brexit summit choice for UK's May

Here's what you need to know.

They expressed concerns that Mrs May must commit to a hard deadline after which point her time-limited version of the backstop would end.

At a three-hour cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, which included ministers with reservations about her strategy, May said a deal was possible if they all stood together.

"We have always said that we are happy to show flexibility in terms of how we get to a destination where-by there is a backstop, or an insurance mechanism, in place to reassure people on the island of Ireland that they are not going to see the re-emergence of physical border infrastructure".

Addressing the German parliament ahead of a Wednesday evening European summit on issues including Brexit, Merkel said agreement had yet to be reached on arrangements for the border between the north and south of Ireland.

"What [the European Union chief negotiator] Michel Barnier is now suggesting is: let's ensure the backstop is never likely to be used by creating the space and time for the United Kingdom and the European Union to be able to negotiate UK-wide customs arrangements", Mr Coveney said.

The cabinet meeting yesterday did not consider a specific wording on any deal, nor make any decisions, but was a discussion about the negotiations and unity.

At present the two sides are proposing that Britain remain inside the European Union single market and bound by its rules from the time it leaves the bloc in March until December 2020, to give time for new trade relations to be set up. The so-called backstop is created to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

But I simply can not see her agreeing to this, because it would be too close to the final date for the next election and maybe 100 plus of her MPs would go tonto with rage.

"We will take this time, calmly and seriously, to find this global agreement in the next weeks", he said.


"I think we are quite close to a no-deal", warned Konrad Szymanski, the Polish minister for European Affairs, after a pre-summit meeting with his European counterparts in Luxembourg.

Regardless of what path the United Kingdom takes in the coming weeks, there can be no denying that a strong European Union will remain in the UK's interests.

Downing Street insiders do not now believe there is much prospect of the EU27 recommending a special November summit to seal a deal.

Maybe - but it is unlikely to bring about the concrete agreement hoped for.

Mr Coveney, who also serves as Ireland's Foreign Minister, was quizzed by host Humphreys on the role of the backstop agreement - which would maintain customs alignment between Northern Ireland and the European Union after Brexit if an alternative agreement can not be reached.

Repeatedly she failed to answer the hard questions on Brexit, on Chequers and on any divorce bill the United Kingdom might have to pay.

Ministerial sources told Sky News "the most we can hope for is that they don't rule a November summit out".

It was actually £39bn, said Mrs May, and this was a country "that honours it's legal obligations and we will do exactly that", before leaving herself a little wiggle room with her familiar mantra that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

May will meet one-on-one with Tusk at 5:45 pm (1545 GMT) before briefing her 27 European colleagues, but then the rest of the EU leaders will leave to discuss Brexit over dinner without her.

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