Brexit Transition Extension 'Probably Will Happen' Says EU Commission President

BRITAIN-ECONOMY-BUSINESS-CONFERENCE-CBI

May said however that she might accept the EU's suggestion of extending the post-Brexit transition phase for a few months beyond December 2020 to allow more time to find a solution to the Irish border question.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of European Commission says, "This prolongation of the transition period probably will happen, that's a good idea, it's not the best idea the two of us have but I think that this is giving us some room to prepare the future relation in the best way possible".

Meanwhile, his Sinn Fein counterpart Michelle O'Neill said Prime Minister Theresa May had refused to hold a joint meeting with the leaders of Northern Ireland's main anti-Brexit parties.

Speaking after Tusk and Juncker, May said Thursday that there would be more hard moments ahead as they reach the final stages of the talks, but added that she was confident in her ability to secure a good deal that is agreeable to all parties.

Mrs May has argued the backstop should see the whole of the United Kingdom stay in a customs union with the EU on a temporary time-limited basis, after the transition period comes to an end.

"And by refusing to meet their representatives, Theresa May is also ignoring the democratic will of the majority in the north who voted to reject Brexit".

The next official European Union summit is scheduled for December, just over three-and-a-half months before Britain ceases to be an European Union member.

This would come into effect after the transition ends - but both sides strongly disagree on its terms, and the issue is holding up the rest of the Brexit talks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described finding a solution as "squaring the circle".

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.

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"We want a Brexit that is good for the union in all of its constituent parts, but that also respects the constitutional and economic integrity of Northern Ireland", she added.

The EU says the solution is to keep Northern Ireland inside a customs union with the bloc, but Britain rejects that because it would mean customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

The UK has already agreed to match European Union rules and customs until December 2020 while the details of a future trade deal are negotiated.

May has tried to maintain an optimistic tone when speaking about the U.K.'s pending exit, touting progress in the complicated talks even as she acknowledges the stark divide between the two sides' positions.

The DUP's deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, also heaped pressure on the under-fire prime minister with further criticism of the proposal to extend the transition period, stressing that it offers "nothing significant" on the backstop proposals.

"His comments were followed by the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who tweeted that he was ready to resume the talks, but warned: "[An] orderly Brexit must include a solid, all-weather backstop to avoid a hard border in IE/NI".

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

At a press conference in Brussels, Mrs May said an extension to the transition period "could be a further solution to this issue of the backstop in Northern Ireland". Officials have said a deal could be struck as late as the European Council's December summit, with both sides determined to avoid no deal. He acknowledged the feeling "may be a more emotional impression than a rational one".

Her comments came less than 24 hours after she had told her European Union counterparts an extension to the transition period past December 2020 was an option to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.

She's found supporters to the idea of replacing the PM from Talkradio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer and Tim Montgomerie, a prominent grassroots Conservative blogger.

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