Europe Offers Britain an Olive Branch to Break Brexit Impasse

Sorcha Eastwood of the Alliance Party

Sorcha Eastwood of the Alliance Party

Ireland's foreign minister says the European Union is open to extending Britain's post-Brexit transition period so that a permanent solution can be found to the Irish border problem.

Insufficient progress has been made to convene the European Council to discuss Britain's exit from the EU, Donald Tusk, president of the council, said in a news conference on Thursday.

As she tries to hit those marks, May faces the daunting task of not only negotiating with the EU's 27 countries but also selling the terms of any deal to hard-line Brexiteers at home.

As EU leaders gathered yet again in Brussels yesterday, they conceded that hopes of a deal are again being pushed back, this time perhaps until December.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday she is considering a European Union proposal that would keep Britain bound to the bloc's rules for more than two years after it leaves, and idea that angers her pro-Brexit critics in the United Kingdom.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has described Brexit as "the political equivalent of climate change" and warned of a return to violence in Ireland if a hard border re-emerges.

Although Barnier said the two sides need "much more time" to work "calmly and patiently" on a deal.

Mr Tajani also mentioned how Mrs May had shown a willingness to look into the possibility of extending the transition period following Brexit.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Wednesday that European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier had suggested "more time in the transition period to agree an alternative solution to a backstop".

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.

Meanwhile, Leave campaigner and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage tweeted that "Mrs May's acceptance of an extension to the transition period will take us to the next general election which may mean we never leave at all".

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. The EU insists there can be no time limit. "That would backfire spectacularly".

Today Theresa May confirmed she is ready to consider a delay of "a matter of months" in Britain's final departure from the European Union in order to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

But even an extension will not get rid of the EU's insistence that such a backstop must be agreed to secure a deal. "By working intensively and closely we can achieve that deal", she told reporters.

The parliamentary vote, and May's political struggles, were the focus of much of the other European Union leaders' dinner late on Wednesday, an aide to French President Emmanuel Macron said. "They do not know themselves what they really want".

Asked if she was anxious, Ms Grybauskaite replied: "Not yet".

"This is a play to normalise "transition" indefinitely until a time when the establishment can call the whole thing off". Westminster rises on December 20 for Christmas.

But in an address to the German parliament earlier Wednesday, Merkel revealed that her government was stepping up contingency planning in the event that Britain leaves with no deal.

Another big date arrives on January 21, when May faces a final deadline to send a Brexit deal to Parliament.

The mooted special November summit to sign a withdrawal agreement may not be in the diary, but neither is the threatened "no-deal" November summit.

Mr Raab noted: "Anything other than a straightforward approval of the deal will bring with it huge uncertainty for business, consumers and citizens".

The Shadow Brexit Secretary said: "That is not a meaningful vote and ministers can't be allowed to silence Parliament".

However, in reality, the prime minister had little choice but to ask for an extension.

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