Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Possible extension to UK's Brexit transition period talked up by Ireland

Possible extension to UK's Brexit transition period talked up by Ireland

An further year could help the United Kingdom and the EU negotiate a future trade deal, and could ease the burden for May on agreeing to a so-called backstop on the Irish border issue that would keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and the single market for goods.

Mrs May had been asked to come up with new "concrete proposals" to unblock the impasse on the backstop issue but while she received a polite reception for her 30-minute presentation to fellow European Union leaders, it appeared to have left them cold.

At an European Union summit in Brussels, while the mood was more upbeat about the willingness for a deal to ease Britain's exit, several leaders and diplomats said May had offered nothing new to strike the kind of breakthrough needed to move forward.

"A further idea that has emerged, and it is an idea at this stage, is to create an option to extend the implementation period for a matter of months, and it would only be a matter months", May told reporters.

"We are working to ensure that we have that future relationship in place by the end of December 2020", she said.

"Both sides mentioned the idea of an extension of the transition period as one possibility which is on the table and would have to be looked into", he added.

Tusk advised May that "creative" thinking from Britain was required to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, the issue that has brought divorce negotiations to a standstill.

He said: "I think what's more likely is that dates will be suggested, but that there won't be a commitment to a new summit unless there is a signal from the negotiating teams that there is something to sign off on".

And one person familiar with the discussions said May's Tory party would find it hard to be fighting the next general election - due in 2022 - while the country is still inside the single market and customs union.

Downing Street insiders do not now believe there is much prospect of the EU27 recommending a special November summit to seal a deal. By working intensively and closely, we can achieve that deal.

Asked on Thursday morning if he had enjoyed the night, Bettel told CNN that he had, adding that such post-work meetings were important and that "even though we are politicians, we are also humans".

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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was "cautiously optimistic" that an agreement would be made "in the coming weeks".

Mrs May's future as Prime Minister appears to be staked on the success of her Brexit negotiations - with infighting within her own party threatening her position.

He explained how Mrs May had repeated her insistence that she would not assent to anything that would leave Northern Ireland in the EU's customs jurisdiction without the rest of the UK.

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.

This offer would not in itself resolve the back-stop issue, which must be settled in the Brexit treaty that must be ratified before March to avoid a damaging "no deal" scenario.

He said: "Such an extension would cost United Kingdom billions of pounds, yet our fundamental problem with the European Union proposal remains".

"I stand ready to convene a European Council on Brexit, if and when the EU negotiator reports that decisive progress has been made", Tusk said.

Mr Lidington said how much it would cost to extend the transition period was something that would have to be "teased out" during the negotiations.

"Today, we do not know what they want", she said.

Mrs O'Neill said: "In order to preserve her toxic alliance with the DUP, she is trampling over the rights of citizens by acquiescing to that party's refusal to share power (at Stormont) on the basis of equality".

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