Scottish Tories revolt over longer Brexit transition

Arturo Kim
October 20, 2018

But no deal was reached, and the leaders of the 27 remaining European Union states decided not to call a special Brexit summit in November after chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he needed "much more time" for talks.

"90% of the accord on the table has been agreed with Britain", Mr Barnier told France Inter radio.

"We are working with European Union to deal with this issue of ensuring that if there is a gap between the end of the implementation period and the point when the future relationship comes in - and we don't expect a gap to exist - we want to ensure there's no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, " May said.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday that a possible extension of Britain's post-Brexit transition period would not diminish Ireland's need for a "backstop" to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland.

But she acknowledged that differences remain over the key issue of the "backstop" arrangement to keep the Irish border open in the absence of a broader trade deal.

She went on to say that the possible extension was, at this stage, only "an idea", adding that it would extend implementation of the withdrawal agreement "only by a matter of months".

He also told reporters on the third day of European Union summit meetings in Brussels that it would be up to British Prime Minister Theresa May to decide whether she had to defy opposition from her unionist Northern Irish allies and agree to the EU's proposed backstop, which would potentially create trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.

Mr Barnier said that he believed the Brexit vote was fuelled in part by "nostalgia" as well as popular anger over the impact of globalisation, but said he had yet to find anyone who could explain how it would provide any answers to voters' anxieties.

May confirmed on Thursday that she was considering extending the 21-month transition - the grace period that's due to kick in on Brexit day and maintain trading and market rules unchanged.

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May "urged businesses not to lose sight of the prize - that of a smooth trading relationship with the European Union alongside the ability to seek new opportunities and open up new markets with trading partners around the world", her office said.

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According to the Guardian, EU leaders are ready to pursue "all avenues" in order to help the PM find a deal that would not automatically be voted down by Parliament when brought back to MPs and avoid the United Kingdom crashing out of the EU.

Failure to meet in November could see a draft Brexit deal pushed back to a December summit, leaving little time for its ratification by the British and European parliaments.

However, European Council president Donald Tusk has warned that without new "concrete proposals" from the British to break the logjam over the Irish border backstop, further progress on a deal may be impossible.

But hopes of a November deal were fading as he added: "We need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks".

It emerged on Wednesday that Mr Barnier was ready to discuss a further year's extension to allow time to find a solution to keep the Irish border open.

"They have had 50 conferences since this Brexit fiasco, since the referendum took place", she said.

If May loses, there would be a leadership contest with the victor becoming prime minister, without the need for new elections.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries repeated her call for former Brexit secretary David Davis to replace Mrs May as leader.

At present the two sides say Britain will remain subject to the bloc's rules from Brexit day on March 29 until December 2020, to give time for new trade relations to be set up.

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is throwing his weight behind the idea of extending a transition period as Britain leaves the bloc, calling it "a good idea".

"We are in a negotiation but at the moment it begins to look more like a capitulation than a negotiation".

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