UK PM seeking to extend Brexit transition period

The Guardian               Former Brexit minister Steve Baker

On Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May and other European Union leaders voiced renewed confidence that they could secure a Brexit deal, yet the two sides remain at odds over how to deal with their only land border, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The concession, delivered to EU leaders at a dinner in Brussels on Wednesday night, means that Britain may not fully leave the auspices of the EU until the end of 2021, while potentially putting billions of pounds more into EU budgets.

Theresa May is facing criticism from her own party after signalling she might be willing to extend the post-Brexit transition period.

The EU and the United Kingdom have agreed they do not want a return to a hard border, where passport and customs checks would be returned, but they can not agree how to achieve that.

The possibility of an extension has infuriated hard-Brexit backers in Ms.

"If Theresa May is asking for a longer transition period, she is stalling", said Tory MP Nadine Dorries.

'If you have a negotiator who has no strong mandate, it's very hard to negotiate'. Many Tory MPs were quick to condemn Ms. One leading Conservative Remainer told BI: "It's daft". Another former Conservative minister, Nick Boles, warned that May was "losing the confidence now of colleagues of all shades of opinion".

They added: "This is the time for cool, calm heads to prevail".

Conservative MPs are threatening to torpedo her plans. "I'm happy with it if it facilitates a deal and solution to the backstop".

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Mr Corbyn said International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey have refused to say they backed the Chequers plan, joking: "Maybe she could share a pizza with them and sort it out".

EU Council President Donald Tusk said the summit also left him more optimistic than he'd been after a bad-tempered meeting last month and a negotiating crisis on Sunday. "They do not know themselves what they really want".

The idea of a one-year extension to the transition period had been proposed by EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

DExEU's language is cautious, insisting that "it has always been the case that as we get nearer to March 2019, preparations for a no-deal scenario would have to be accelerated".

However, in reality, the prime minister had little choice but to ask for an extension.

Leaders reaffirmed their confidence in Barnier, seen as a snub in the face of the UK's efforts over the summer to go behind the European Union negotiator and make deals with member states instead. The plan is known as the backstop because it's an insurance clause to make sure that no matter what future trading arrangement the two sides decide on, no new border will emerge on the island of Ireland. May's proposal to extend this period is therefore entirely sensible, even if the realisation that such an extension is needed has come very late in the process. Her so-called Chequers plan has already been rejected both by the European Union and her own party and the prime minister has not even begun the process of spelling out which of the alternative available options she is willing to accept.

Talks are stalled on the question of how to avoid a policed frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, without erecting new barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain. Neither would be supported by the House of Commons.

Setting out Labour's Brexit position, he added: "We are leaving the European Union, but we will not support a deal cobbled together by a divided and chaotic Tory government if it's going to make life tougher for millions of people". But while her current course points to certain checkmate, the soft Brexit option would at least allow the game to continue for a few more moves.

Broadcasting from the EU Parliament in Brussels, Nigel was seething.

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