Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

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

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

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani confirmed that both sides had mooted the idea of extending the transition period by an additional year.

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.

Diplomats say European Union negotiator Michel Barnier is willing to add a year to the already planned 21-month post Brexit transition period, when Britain's relationship with the bloc stays largely the same.

The proposal is deeply unpopular with Brexiteer Tories, with the dispute over it compounded by the EU demanding a "backstop to the backstop" - i.e. a guarantee that Northern Ireland alone be kept in the Customs Union if problems emerge with a UK-wide one, creating barriers between the Province and the British mainland.

As he arrived for the Brussels meeting, Barnier had said "we need time, we need much more time" for talks, vowing to work "calmly and patiently" for a deal in the coming weeks.

Last December, EU and UK negotiators agreed to a 21 month transition period after the UK formally leaves the bloc in March next year during which the UK would remain part of the single market but have no say over new rules governing it, and on the need to agree a backstop on the Irish border.

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"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.

Theresa May has insisted a Brexit deal remains "achievable" at the start of a European summit which has been overshadowed by a set back in negotiations.

The taoiseach said he and the British prime minister were "in broad agreement" on the idea that the backstop could not be time-limited.

As for the future relationship with Britain, she said "it must always be clear that, although we want to avoid hardship, ultimately the difference between membership in the European Union and a partnership with the European Union as a third state must and will become clear".

A senior British government official tried to play down the significance of May's consideration of such an extension, saying it had only "come up in negotiations in recent days" and that it was one of several options to help move the talks on - something London desperately wants to see.

Europe's two most powerful leaders stayed out drinking on an unseasonably balmy Brussels night until just after 1am - longer than they afforded May's Brexit speech earlier that evening.

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But it also, after an intervention by the Democratic Unionist party, committed the United Kingdom (not the EU) not to have any trading differences between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said: "We took our steps". They want to use it to slash rights and protections and turbocharge their bankers-first market free-for-all.

"I'm convinced that if we as a government stand together and stand firm, we can achieve this", she said, according to her spokesman. That they're trying to leave this so late that they can then credibly say there is no alternative but a no-deal Brexit and most people agree that would be chaos.

Thousands expected to march on Westminster this weekend calling for a so-called "People's Vote" on the final Brexit deal reached by the PM.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, May had said a deal was "achievable" while sticking to her principles on the Irish border issue.

But for now the absence of a breakthrough will be less important to the prime minister than the absence of a breakdown.

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