Britain, EU decide to take some time in getting Brexit right

Donald Tusk has urged Theresa May to come forward with more details on her Brexit plans

British PM Theresa May appeared to open the way to extend the post-Brexit transition period until December 2021, as European Union leaders offered an olive branch to her in a bid to break the impasse during the European Union summit on Wednesday (17 October).

Negotiations are stuck over the issue of a "backstop" to keep open the border between British Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland if and until a wider trade deal can be signed that avoids the need for frontier checks.

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.

Leave Means Leave, the pro-Brexit campaign group, released a statement from its co-chair, Richard Tice, accusing May of wanting to remain in the EU.

Britain's Prime minister Theresa May looks on as she arrives at the European Council in Brussels on October 17, 2018.

The two sides are now proposing an implementation period from 30 March 2019 until 31 December 2020.

"Nothing new tonight", Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after an evening when not exacerbating divisions with Britain was seen as a victory in itself.

But May, hemmed in by opponents in her own party and even in her own cabinet, has no such proposals.

The choreography of Wednesday's summit opening emphasises British isolation.

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

The prime minister's high-stakes diplomatic mission started with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek from the president of the EU's executive branch, Jean-Claude Juncker.

With the talks stalled and little prospect of a quickening of pace, many Brexit supporters and critics of Britain's departure are airing their frustration over an exit which some campaigners had said would be an easy deal.

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Previously, both sides had agreed that Britain crashing out of the Union on March 29 next year with neither a divorce agreement nor a road-map to future ties would be an economic and diplomatic disaster.

Tajani, however, also emphasised that "without an agreement on the three points (EU citzens rights in the UK, Brexit divorce bill and the Northern Ireland matter), the European Parliament can not and will not vote in favour of the agreement".

"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.

Back in Brussels, a stern Tusk said he had "no grounds for optimism" based on a report Tuesday from Barnier and May's appearance in parliament on Monday.

Brexit talks have stalled over how to deal with their only land border - between the British province of Northern Ireland and Ireland - less than six months before Britain quits the European Union in its biggest policy shift in more than 40 years.

However, Ms May said she didn't believe the extension would be needed.

"I'm convinced that if we as a government stand together and stand firm, we can achieve this", she said, according to her spokesman.

But the two sides disagree on how to resolve the issue.

To solve the Irish question, Britain has proposed staying aligned to the EU's customs rules until a wider trade deal can be signed that avoids the need for any frontier checks.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

Such an arrangement is anathema to unionists in Belfast and to May, who says it would cut Northern Ireland off from the United Kingdom.

Also it is confirmation, if such were needed, of how hard it is for Barnier to drop a solution for Northern Ireland that introduces trade barriers with Great Britain.

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