No Brexit without backstop, says EU Parliament President

Glen Norman
October 20, 2018

EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier has warned that a deal could fall at the final hurdle if a solution isn't found to the Irish border issue. "But I have to say the period since I made that speech we have had a very different approach from the European Union a more constructive approach that has led to the situation we're in now where all but one or two issues have been resolved".

The EU has said extending that period would give more time to strike a trade deal that ensures the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland remains friction-free _ the main sticking point in the Brexit talks.

Speaking on the third day of the EU summit meeting in Brussels, Varadkar said without an Irish backstop any withdrawal treaty may fail to be ratified by the European Parliament.

The lack of progress means a special European Union summit on Brexit that had been penciled in for next month has been scrapped, though European Union leaders said they would assess the situation later.

EU Council President Donald Tusk says this week's summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May has left him more optimistic that a Brexit deal can be found for Britain's divorce from the bloc.

When the other 27 European Union leaders met without her over dinner on Wednesday evening, they concluded that "not enough progress has been made" in the negotiations, an EU official said.

"A further idea that has emerged, and it is an idea at this stage, is to create an option to extend the implementation period for a matter of months, and it would only be a matter months", May told reporters on the second day of the summit.

He says "we are in a much better mood than after Salzburg".

She said Mrs May had turned down a request for talks with the leaders of Sinn Fein, the nationalist SDLP, cross-community Alliance Party and the Green Party in Northern Ireland.

The mooted special November summit to sign a withdrawal agreement may not be in the diary, but neither is the threatened "no-deal" November summit.

He also said there would be "huge difficulties" within the European Union 27 member states to consider making the backstop UK-wide, adding that the European Union is willing to make exceptions to treat Northern Ireland as a special case because of its hard history and unique geography.

May said Thursday that the considering extending the transition period by "a matter of months".

Such a border would violate the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) or Belfast Agreement that Northern Ireland's present devolved system of government is based on.

Sir Mark Sedwill, the acting Cabinet Secretary, took the unusual step of writing to the newspaper earlier this week to defend Mr Robbins, who is widely mistrusted by Brexiteers who believe he wants to keep the United Kingdom in a close orbit around the EU.

That could trigger a leadership contest, a so-called no deal Brexit and even a new election.

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". "May is a positive political message: we want to achieve an agreement", Tajani said.

The EU insist the "backstop" must apply to Northern Ireland only, which is fiercely opposed by the DUP, whose MPs prop-up the government.

The Democratic Unionists, however, have threatened "consequences" if the British government does anything which could undermine the constitutional integrity of the UK.

With the offer on the table, Europe is seeking to put pressure on May to come to Brussels with ideas of her own.

In a radio interview, Boles said he feared May was losing the confidence of people who have been supportive of her throughout this process.

Many EU leaders "see the delays as a negotiating tactic by London to try to force concessions", Nelson reported.

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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