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

Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk

Many suspect that will not be enough time, which has led the European Union to demand a "backstop" to ensure there are no customs posts or other controls along the now invisible border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland.

"I did not perceive anything substantially new in the content as I listened to May", he told reporters after the meeting, adding that May's tone was more relaxed than at the summit in Salzburg in September, as was her message was of goodwill and readiness to reach an agreement.

Mr Tajani suggested that Mrs May had shown willingness to look into the possibility of extending the proposed 21-month transition period following Brexit to three years.

But that idea has been shot down by Europe's chief negotiator, Ireland's prime minister and members of her own party, who want the ability to do trade deals with the rest of the world.

The mood among pro-Brexit Conservative was summed up by Simon Clark, who told the prime minister directly that she had as "failed to reassure" MPs that the United Kingdom will definitely leave the customs union by December 2020, amid fears that the United Kingdom could be wedded to the EU's customs arrangements for years and years to come.

Diplomats say European Union negotiator Michel Barnier is willing to add a year to the already planned 21-month post Brexit transition period, when Britain's relationship with the bloc stays largely the same. "We should not call a summit just to talk", the Taoiseach said.

The St Austell and Newquay MP said: "The tourism and hospitality sector is very concerned that they will be able to continue to access the seasonal workforce they need once we leave the EU".

Barnier has now offered to extent the two year transition period in order to give the two sides more time to work out a trade deal that ensure the backstop would never come into force.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani commented on Thursday that "both sides mentioned the idea of an extension of the transition period as one possibility which is on the table".

Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier said ‘we need more time’ to reach a deal

The former minister Nick Boles described any attempt to extend the transition period as a "desperate last move", and said May was losing the confidence of her party.

The French Government yesterday published draft no-deal legislation that could require British citizens to obtain a visa before travelling to France following the UK's withdrawal from the EU. "That would backfire spectacularly".

"I am going to ask Prime Minister May whether she has concrete proposals on how to break the impasse", EU President Donald Tusk declared.

Talks stalled over the weekend between UK Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, and that is what led to the standstill we're seeing now between the two parties.

London believes frontier checks can be avoided through a new trade agreement with Brussels, but accepts the need for a fallback plan to address the issue until that deal is agreed.

"Once the deal is presented to parliament, the procedure through which it is voted upon must allow for an unequivocal decision, and one which is clear to the British public", Raab said in a letter on Wednesday to the parliamentary Procedure Committee that will advise on how to carry out the so-called meaningful vote.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, May had said a deal was "achievable" while sticking to her principles on the Irish border issue.

But Mr Coveney made it clear that summit would not go ahead unless significant progress is made on the border issue. We know that Theresa May is in a tricky situation.

"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".

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