Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Theresa May faces backlash over hint to extend Brexit transition to 2021

New idea being explored in Brexit negotiations Little hope or expectation for a Brexit breakthrough as Theresa May heads to Brussels
Pablo Mccormick | 18 October, 2018, 15:43

European Union diplomats said May appeared to show a greater understanding of the EU's concerns, including Ireland's requirement for a "backstop" insurance clause that would mean there would beno hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Britain could stay in the customs union for an extra year as the EU has reportedly offered to extend the Brexit transition period.

Mrs. May said she would consider the proposal.

"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 for a matter of months", she said.

But she suggests it should only be in place until the end of December 2021 - something Brussels has rejected, saying any fallback plan can not be time-limited.

Staunch Brexiteer, Nadine Dorries, urged MPs to oust May as Conservative party leader and prime minister if she accepts a longer transition period.

The concession, delivered to European Union leaders at a dinner in Brussels last night, means that Britain may not fully leave the auspices of the European Union until nearly six years after the European Union referendum, while potentially putting billions of pounds more into European Union budgets.

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Forced to remain inside the union, the United Kingdom will have to pay tens of billions more into the EU budget and can not strike trade deals - seen as a major economic advantage of Brexit - and will be forced to follow many EU rules and laws, with no say in setting them.

"I'm afraid she is losing the confidence now of colleagues of all shades of opinion, people who have been supportive of her throughout this process".

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said "much more time" was needed, and that he would continue working "calmly and patiently".

"That is not an acceptable way for a leader of a government to behave".

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, an extension does not in and of itself solve May's problem, which is that she has yet to fully decide, let alone agree, what sort of relationship she wants to secure during that additional transition period.

Many suspect that will not be enough time, which has led the European Union to demand a "backstop" to ensure there are no customs posts or other controls along the now invisible border between the UK's Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland.

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But after hastily arranged talks between Mr Barnier and Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab broke up on Sunday without agreement, the negotiations are once again deadlocked. Other ministers spoke about the issue during the discussion but were more cautious, the person 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.

But the extension would grant more time to agree a new EU-UK trade relationship and avoid the need for separate plans for Northern Ireland, which London staunchly opposes.

The Financial Times reported that EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is open to a possible one-year extension to the Brexit transition, should Mrs May accept a "two-tier" backstop.

The EU is now aiming for the December summit to get the deal done, according to one of the officials, though the idea of a November meeting hasn't been ruled out.

There was none of the acrimony and drama of Salzburg, but the summit, billed as the moment of truth, ended not with a bang but a whimper.

Mrs May did not come forward with the new "concrete proposals" on the border issue which European Council president Donald Tusk has said are needed to break the deadlock.

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