Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Brexit talks: Now is the time for a deal, May tells EU

Ambulance Brexit hard border would be a political failure Former Army chief Lord Dannatt
Ellis Copeland | 18 October, 2018, 23:07

Speaking after Tusk and Juncker, May said Thursday that there would be more hard moments ahead as they reach the final stages of the talks, but added that she was confident in her ability to secure a good deal that is agreeable to all parties.

May was also meeting European Council President Donald Tusk, who a day earlier implored May to present new ideas at the summit for resolving the sticky problem of how to keep the border between the Republic of Ireland and the UK's Northern Ireland friction-free once Britain no longer is an EU member.

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".

Latest Brexit talks have seen a proposal for an "option" for the United Kingdom to extend its transition period out of the bloc beyond December 2020.

"And in those circumstances there would be no need for any proposal of this sort and I'm clear that I expect the implementation period to end at the end of December 2020".

Mrs May said that the option of an extension of the transition had been floated as a way to bridge any gap between the end of 2020 and the start of a deal on the future EU/UK relationship, to ensure there was no hard border in Ireland during this time.

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.

But even an extension will not get rid of the EU's insistence that such a backstop must be agreed to secure a deal.

After one-on-one meetings with Tusk, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, May will brief her 27 European colleagues before leaving the EU leaders to discuss Brexit over dinner without her.

"We agreed that once there is sufficient progress we will meet again at any point in time that is convenient, but right now we can not safely say when such a meeting should take place".

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But he said the idea would have some merit, adding "if it did help to reassure people that the backstop would never be activated, that would be a positive thing".

The British public would not forgive the potential gains of Brexit being "sacrificed because of European Union bullying and the government's desperation to secure a deal", they said. "These issues are still pending, but in the talks I had this morning with Prime Minister Theresa May, we encouraged one another to reach an agreement on two out of the four memorandums, those dealing with tax issues, which are the most flexible ones".

"I think "soft Brexit" seems to be unfortunately out of the question", Stubb said of the possibility that the U.K.might maintain close economic ties to the EU.

The People's Vote campaign is calling for a public vote on any final Brexit deal.

The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats said extending the transition was another "embarrassing climbdown" for May.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to urge her counterparts to give ground on Britain's departure from the bloc, while European Union leaders hope she brings "concrete proposals" to break the deadlock.

Brexiteer-in-chief and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said that it would delay full withdrawal nearly until the general election scheduled for May 2022 and "may mean we never leave at all".

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. "They do not know themselves what they really want".

Such an extension, keeping Britain under European Union governance with no say in it, would be highly unpopular with hardline supporters of Brexit.

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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