Published: Sat, October 20, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

UK PM reassures business leaders over Brexit

UK PM reassures business leaders over Brexit

"I think we are both of the understanding that this is an insurance policy and obviously we want to address all of these issues in a future relationship", she said.

Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said today that even if the UK's post-Brexit transition period were extended Ireland would still need a backstop arranged to prevent a hard border with Northern Ireland.

But EU officials have said negotiators are now looking at extending it beyond 2020 after a crunch two-day EU Brexit summit ended without agreement yesterday.

But later on Thursday, she attempted to play down the comments and said Britain will not be pushing for an extension to the Brexit transition period.

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.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and her closest advisers were on Thursday contemplating how to scale the "brick wall" that is preventing a Brexit deal being agreed with Brussels.

The transition - during which the United Kingdom would remain in the single market and customs union and subject to EU rules - is meant to provide time for authorities and officials to prepare for new arrangements following the official date of Brexit in March 2019.

At the meeting in Brussels, EU leaders decided that not enough progress has been made in negotiations to warrant calling a one-off summit in November for a divorce deal to be signed.

Meanwhile, leading Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg joined Mr Davis and three other former ministers in signing an open letter warning the Prime Minister not to "bind the United Kingdom into the purgatory of perpetual membership of the EU's customs union".

In fact, it could be the fury of May's own party - along with criticism from Labour and the DUP - that pushes Britain closer to leaving the European Union with a deal.

May spoke of "working intensively over the next days and weeks" to achieve agreement that avoids a no-deal departure from the bloc for Britain on March 29 that could create chaos at the borders and in the economy.

The issue of Northern Ireland in these talks is a conundrum that Tusk compared to a "new version of the Gordian knot".

The move, which would effectively prolong the terms of Britain's European Union membership, could come at a high political price in London, with the idea outraging Brexiteers in May's Conservative Party.

Follow the latest developments from the Brussels summit with our rolling Brexit Update. 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.

Theresa May and her European Union counterparts seem likely to trot out the line that a Brexit deal will, probably, be struck, albeit at the 11th hour at this evening's European Union summit.

May also faces a rebellion from her parliamentary partners, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which has threatened to vote against her government's budget if she concedes to the EU's demands over the backstop.

Its co-chair Richard Tice said: "The original transition was an unnecessary trap created by our weak civil servants who can not be trusted as they don't want us to leave".

Syed Kamall, the leader of the Conservative's group, is "quite confident that there will be a deal by the end of the year", a spokesperson said on Friday.

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

With the offer on the table, Europe is seeking to put pressure on May to come to Brussels with ideas of her own. They say the proposal would tear Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain.

But any extension will need to take into account concerns on both sides to avoid the transition ending with no deal.

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