Thursday, 22 August, 2019

Theresa May says Brexit transition extension would last ‘matter of months’

UK finance giants are stepping up moves to shift operations and staff to the EU amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit MPs have been warned Russell Barr Modern slavery would have appalled Skating Minister
Patty Aguilar | 18 October, 2018, 23:09

But three days after talks stalled over the Irish border "backstop", thwarting hopes of a deal at the summit, May arrived determined to stress that an accord was still on the cards.

But that idea has been shot down by Europe's chief negotiator, Ireland's prime minister and members of her own party, who want the ability to do trade deals with the rest of the world.

"The Gibraltar protocol is resolved, it's been closed with the British government, and what we are doing now is working out the four memorandums for the bilateral relationship between the government of Spain and the United Kingdom", said Sánchez.

"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".

The problem is centred on a so-called backstop insurance policy that would ensure there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland - a former focal point for sectarian tensions - if a future trading relationship is not in place in time.

However, with her party split, and some Tory MPs openly calling for her to go, Mrs May has little room to manoeuvre if she is to secure a deal which stands any chance of getting through Parliament.

Mrs May addressed her 27 European counterparts on Wednesday evening, urging them to give ground and end the current Brexit deadlock.

Barnier told reporters that negotiators needed "much more time" to reach a deal.

But, despite the absence of an agreement, there were more positive noises from key players compared to the acrimonious Salzburg summit in September.

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.

This week's Brussels summit had been set as the deadline for a draft deal, but European Union leaders have instead been left to contemplate the potentially catastrophic scenario of Britain crashing out in March without any agreement.

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"I'd also remind members of this House that we've been very clear, as have the European Union, that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

A senior Labour source said, "We've not called for any extension and the only reason it's being discussed is because of the abject failure of the government's negotiating".

"The only answer to public disillusionment with how Brexit has not lived up to what they voted for is a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal".

Today, Mrs May will have further bilateral meetings, having had talks on Wednesday with Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, Donald Tusk, the European Council President, Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, and Emmanuel Macron, the French President.

European Union leaders also underscored their support for Barnier and the importance of maintaining a united front behind him - a further rebuff to the UK's attempts to peel off support from individual member states.

The European Union's top trade official is playing down the importance of a USA announcement that it will pursue a trade deal with Britain, noting London can not negotiate such pacts until it leaves the bloc.

To solve the Irish question, Britain has proposed staying aligned to the EU's customs rules until a wider trade deal can be signed that avoids the need for any frontier checks.

Britain says it has not asked for an extension, but May has not yet come up with proposals for unblocking the border logjam.

The EU official also said May had told leaders that Britain was prepared to consider an extension. "They do not know themselves what they really want".

And it would be more than five years after the historic referendum vote to Leave.

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