European Union leaders gather for 'moment of truth' Brexit summit

Marsha Scott
October 18, 2018

Many suggested the core problem was the British Prime Minister's inability to rally her feuding party around a workable set of negotiating demands.

With the impasse likely to continue, diplomats are beginning to expect that a deal might not be complete until December or January, making it very tight to ratify any agreement in domestic parliaments across the European Union, including the House of Commons.

The UK has said the transition period, dependent on an overall deal being agreed, is necessary to stop a "cliff-edge" for business and give the two sides time to agree their future relationship.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the hard final phase of the talks did not necessarily mean they would be unsuccessful. "It's always the case with negotiations, that in the end there are challenges", he said.

It will mean the House of Commons has to abide by Brussels rules and regulations, without having any say on them.

In a recent speech, the newspaper reports that Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon called for Scotland to be allowed to stay a member of the EU's single market, should Northern Ireland obtain a special deal.

"We have solved most of the issues in the withdrawal agreement", said Mrs May.

May's cabinet have told her they will not accept either an indefinite backstop - or one that leaves Northern Ireland in a different regulatory regime.

"I think we are quite close to a no-deal", warned Konrad Szymanski, the Polish minister for European Affairs, after a pre-summit meeting with his European counterparts in Luxembourg.

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"I believe a deal is achievable and now is the time to make it happen".

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed the tougher tone coming from the 27 other governments, whose leaders will gather over dinner after a presentation by Mrs May.

May is meeting with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council president Donald Tusk before briefing EU leaders on how she sees any possible progress in the negotiations.

Earlier, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said a longer transition period was not a substitute for an agreement on the so-called Irish backstop, created to prevent the need for customs checks at the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic until a wider trade deal is done.

That proposal differentiating Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom has been met with resistance from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party.

Michel Barnier briefed the leaders of other European Union member states ahead of a summit on Wednesday and told them he would be willing to grant Theresa May a one-year extension in return for her agreement to the option of a "two-tier" backstop in Northern Ireland. "It will most definitely limit the prospects of our young", he said. However, May is also under pressure from Brexit supporters to cut ties to the bloc as soon as possible. Another source familiar with the talks said that she told European Union leaders that she was open to an extension of the transition "in a cautious way". They have insisted that London negotiate exclusively through Barnier.

May's concession on Wednesday came as she pleaded for "courage, trust and friendship" from both sides in her speech to European Union leaders.

A joint pre-summit plea from the European auto and vehicle parts sector warned disruption to cross-Channel supply chains would be "catastrophic" and wipe out much of a quarter-century of recovery in England's vehicle industry.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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