October 17, 2018

Brexit latest: Will the UK accept the EU’s offer of extra time?

By Priya Kantaria

In Brexit latest, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May will be presenting on Brexit with EU leaders in Brussels, with plans for a further “crunch” summit to be confirmed for November.

Speaking to the press in Brussels, the European Council president Donald Tusk said reports from Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, gave him little reason for optimism for May’s presentation.

He said: “For a breakthrough to take place, besides goodwill, we need new facts. I am going to ask Prime Minister May whether she has concrete proposals on how to break the impasse.”

An impasse between the EU and the UK

The impasse is centred around the issue of the Irish backstop. May says the backstop to the backstop, which the EU has asked for, would threaten the integrity of the UK and is pushing for a UK-wide solution.

Michel Barnier said he hoped to reach an agreement in the next few weeks, but also said he recognised that more time might be needed.

He said: “This withdrawal must be orderly for everyone and in all subjects – including Ireland. We must find a solution to ensure that there is no hard border in any circumstance on the island of Ireland.”

He also said: “What I understand is that more time is required to find this comprehensive deal and to reach this decisive progress which we need in order to finalise these negotiations on the orderly exit of the United Kingdom.”

Downing Street has not commented on whether it will take up the offer for additional time in the transition process.

The EU offers more time

Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, speaking to the BBC, seemed to support the idea of extra time so that an alternative solution to the backstop could be agreed.

He said: “What Michel Barnier is now suggesting is: let’s ensure the backstop is never likely to be used by creating the space and time for the UK and the EU to be able to negotiate UK-wide customs arrangements.”

He added about a no-deal scenario: “There is a lot of inaccurate macho talk about countries being able to survive a no-deal Brexit, the truth is a no-deal Brexit creates significant problems.”

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