Varadkar says even with Brexit transition extension Irish ‘backstop’ needed

Tuesday, 23 Oct, 2018

British Prime Minister Theresa May and other European Union leaders voiced renewed confidence on Thursday that they could secure a Brexit deal, saying they were working hard to overcome the very same hurdles that only days ago brought the talks to a halt.

May's conference call with representatives of firms ranging from the accounting firm EY to the retailer Tesco came after a summit in Brussels this week produced no tangible progress.

Britain needed "to decide finally what they want and to rally behind the Prime Minister all together, not split", she said, adding: "Today we do not know what they want".

"I think it's imperative that the Irish government holds its nerve, I think it's imperative that our European partners do as Michel Barnier (EU chief Brexit negotiator) promised and don't blink".

The Downing Street statement said May "recognised the importance of these discussions for businesses, their supply chains and clients".

"This prolongation of the transition period probably will happen", Juncker said.

"I believe we need a deal".

"This week's fresh chaos and confusion over Brexit negotiations has exposed how even the best deal now available will be a bad one for Britain", said Andrew Adonis, a Labour member of the House of Lords.

He warned that solving the Irish border issue was a "prerequisite" for a successful outcome of Brexit negotiations, and that failure to find a resolution would spell disaster for striking any deal.

The UK is due to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019.

This option is not well received in the United Kingdom, however, where some Conservatives and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) claim it would essentially break up the United Kingdom, as it might necessitate border checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The problem centers on a so-called backstop - an insurance policy to ensure there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland, a former focal point for sectarian tensions, if a future trading relationship is not in place in time.

However, Mrs Merkel also advised "each and every one ought to prepare" for the possibility of a "no-deal" Brexit, while Mr Macron also spoke of how France was preparing for a United Kingdom departure without an agreement.

On the other side of the political divide, the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats said extending the transition was another "embarrassing climbdown" for May.

Her difficulties were laid bare by the fury sparked back home at her suggestion that the post-Brexit transition period could be extended to address the Irish border issue. The UK government argues the EU's backstop proposals would divide the UK down the Irish Sea - and Parliament has passed amendments contradicting the EU's interpretation.

'They have spent far more time arguing with themselves than negotiating with the European Union'.

Earlier Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the chance to conclude "a good and viable agreement on time is still there, and of course it is in our interest".

He added: "She's got to get tough now and stop this pussy-footing around".

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.

UK is due to leave on 29 March 2019, but an agreement on how is proving elusive amid differences over how to prevent a hard border in Ireland The UK Parliament would have to agree to any extension and some MPs are warning that Mrs. A deal must be sealed soon so parliaments have time to give their verdicts on it.