Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

PM Theresa May presses European Union on Brexit but offers no new plans

PM Theresa May presses European Union on Brexit but offers no new plans

European Union negotiator Michel Barnier suggested the extension as a way of breaking the deadlock on how to keep Britain's border with Ireland open after Brexit, which is holding up the whole divorce agreement.

While it could help May sell a deal at home, it won't remove the need to accept the most controversial part of the EU's proposal - that in a last-resort situation, Northern Ireland could be split off from the rest of Britain.

The Daily Telegraph says Mrs May was playing for time as she called on European Union leaders to show "courage" and come up with "creative" ideas to break the Brexit deadlock.

Tajani said May said she would evaluate an idea to extend the post-Brexit transition period by a year from the current cut-off date at the end of 2020 but that the British prime minister did not say whether she would favour that, or not.

"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".

Extending the transition period could mean that if a future partnership is not ready, a backstop, which so far has been unpalatable to the British side, would not have to be triggered.

However, any extension would rile the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg as it would mean the continuation of free movement and Britain paying billions more pounds into EU coffers as the United Kingdom effectively remained in the European single market and customs union.

Although the summit had been billed as a "moment of truth", when a deal must be finalized to allow an orderly exit by Britain on March 29, the moment of truth has been delayed.

Arriving in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed the European line that "90 percent" of the withdrawal agreement was settled.

The PM said: "We have shown we can do hard deals together constructively".

The British leader urged her counterparts to redouble efforts to find the way to a deal, but European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said she did offer them concrete new proposals.

"I want to be optimistic".

In other news, the Daily Mirror carries an interview with the mother of poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal, who says she fears she will never see her son again.

The UK has signed up to the principle of a Irish border backstop - an insurance policy created to prevent the need for customs checks - but the two sides can not agree what form the backstop will take and how long it will last.

"Many Conservative MPs (lawmakers) 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.

Speaking to the BBC on Thursday, the prime minister said she hoped that no extension would be needed but acknowledged that it may be necessary to lengthen the transition period by a "matter of months".

The EU meeting is the occasion when the leaders of the remaining 27 member states were supposed to give the green light for a special summit in November to finalise the terms of Britain's withdrawal.

The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019 but an agreement on how this will happen is now proving elusive amid differences over how to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

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.

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