May 'to consider' extending UK's post-Brexit transition period



The prime minister told fellow leaders on Wednesday evening she was open to extending the transition - one proposal mooted during intensive talks over the Irish backstop issue, which broke down without agreement last weekend.

Talks on finalising the UK's withdrawal agreement and a political declaration on future trade relations with the EU have been blocked by failure to agree on a backstop to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the event that an agreement on future EU-UK relations can not be struck.

Mrs May initially suggested an "implementation period" of around two years after Brexit, to give the UK's authorities and companies time to prepare for new arrangements, but later accepted a 21-month transition ending on the last day of 2020.

European Parliament president Antonio called that a "good choice" as he arrived at the summit.

"If a year is added to that it won't hurt Europe, I hope not Britain as well".

Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, said the cost to the United Kingdom taxpayer of extending the transition period would only be settled once it was clear how much longer the country would remain under European Union laws.

But when the prime minister was asked in the House of Commons earlier Wednesday whether her government's blueprint for an amicable divorce was dead, May replied: "The answer is no". "The message was more relaxed than in Salzburg, certainly.but I did not perceive anything substantially new in terms of content".

"Today we do not know what they want".

But both London and Brussels have pledged to avoid any physical infrastructure, or "hard border", anxious that it could upset the delicate peace process that ended decades of violence between Protestant supporters of British rule over the province, and Irish Catholics nationalists, who believe in a united Ireland.

Mrs May spoke for 15 minutes before leaving the summit, and leaving the rest of the leaders to discuss the impasse over Brexit.

"We have shown we can do hard deals together constructively".

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If a withdrawal agreement is reached, a transition period would kick in after next March, which has been planned to end in December 2020.

Tusk broke off the meeting, after nobody responded to the British Prime Minister. "I believe a deal is achievable and now is the time to make it happen", declared the PM.

"Today there will be no breakthrough", said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

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

Michel Barnier told reporters that they had "worked a lot over the past few days and weeks" on talks but that "we are not there yet".

The meeting with the EU27 was a short one, and it appears there was no progress to be made. "For now, EU27 is not planning to organise an extraordinary summit on Brexit in November", an European Union source told reporters in Brussels.

"We need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks", EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. European Union leaders dismissed May's most recent proposal as unworkable.

It comes after she attempted to convince European Union leaders yesterday that a Brexit deal is still possible after talks between negotiators stalled last weekend.

"We are not there yet".

Speaking after the Brexit Committee in Westminster yesterday - at which the Permanent Secretaries of HM Revenue and Customs and the Department of Health gave evidence - Mr Wilson said that he welcomed the assurances on issues that were causing concern in Northern Ireland.

A diplomat told the Financial Times: 'The extension is an example of how we could be flexible to help the British side if they want it'.

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