UK PM meets Macron ahead of Brexit talks

Marsha Scott
October 19, 2018

She said: 'We do not know what they want, they do not know themselves what they really want - that's the problem. But the problem is we can not have a border in Ireland between the Republic and the province [of Northern Ireland].

France did not rule out a possible lengthening of Britain's post-Brexit transition period if it helps advance negotiations with London, but any extension would come with conditions, an official in President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Thursday.

As EU leaders gathered yet again in Brussels yesterday, they conceded that hopes of a deal are again being pushed back, this time perhaps until December. Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said "we need much time, much more time, and we continue to work in the next weeks".

Asked about the plan, a British official said there were no plans to propose a change to the transition.

"The only answer to public disillusionment with how Brexit has not lived up to what they voted for is a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal".

Option to extend not expected to be used.

"I am sure the leaders would be ready to consider it positively", he added.

European Union leaders warned Wednesday there must be more progress in Brexit negotiations, despite hearing a personal plea by British Prime Minister Theresa May, who said she was open to a longer transition phase to unblock the talks.

Despite the stalemate, Tusk tried to sound upbeat in his press conference - a contrast to his remarks at the close of a summit in Salzburg last month when said May's plan for a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union would not work.

"We are working to ensure that we have that future relationship in place by the end of December 2020", May said as she arrived at European Union headquarters in Brussels on Thursday for meetings on migration, security and other issues.

This sentiment was echoed by Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn, who said an extension of the transition period would not jeopardise the European Union or UK.

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In the event of a "no-deal Brexit", any transition period plans are liable to disintegrate.

A spokesperson for the prime minister refused to categorically rule out an extended transition period earlier on Wednesday, telling reporters in Westminster: "We're not calling for an extension to the implementation deal".

"We couldn't have a situation whereby the United Kingdom had access to the single market and at the same time was able to undercut us in standards, whether it was environmental standards, health, state aid, and competition standards". Any deal agreed in Brussels needs to win approval in Parliament, where May doesn't have a majority and faces opposition on all sides.

The prime minister is due to hold a special Brexit-focused Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning knowing that her next move in negotiations could trigger mass resignations and risk the collapse of her government.

And she told them: "The last stage will need courage, trust and leadership on both sides".

"We have to have a deal before".

The proposed 12-month extension would cost billions of pounds in EU fees and leave Britain under European rules for nearly six years after the referendum result.

But she said she had found "a very real sense that people want that deal done" among her fellow leaders.

She is hemmed in by pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party, who oppose any more compromises with the bloc, and by her parliamentary allies in Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, who insist a solution to the border issue can't include customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Despite all this, Mrs May says she is still convinced she will get a deal on Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

Tusk broke off the meeting, after nobody responded to the British Prime Minister.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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