Despite 'big gaps', Britain and European Union talk up Brexit prospects

Despite 'big gaps', Britain and European Union talk up Brexit prospects

The European Union is ready to extend Brexit's post-divorce transition period by a year to allow more time to find a trade deal, diplomats said Wednesday ahead of a hard summit.

"Ninety percent of the accord on the table has been agreed with Britain", Barnier said.

'There is a lot of hard work ahead, there will be more difficult moments as we enter the final stages of the talks, but I'm convinced we will secure a good deal that is in the interests of the United Kingdom and of the European Union, ' she said.

Britain's Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, said a week ago that the so-called backstop created to prevent a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, must be finite, short and time-limited.

But after urgent talks on the Irish border ended Sunday without producing a breakthrough, Wednesday's gathering looked more like a therapeutic bonding session than an occasion to celebrate.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday she is considering a European Union proposal that would keep Britain bound to the bloc's rules for more than two years after it leaves, and idea that angers her pro-Brexit critics in the United Kingdom.

Mr Barnier said that he believed the Brexit vote was fuelled in part by "nostalgia" as well as popular anger over the impact of globalisation, but said he had yet to find anyone who could explain how it would provide any answers to voters' anxieties.

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.

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At the meeting in Brussels, EU leaders decided that not enough progress has been made in negotiations to warrant calling a one-off summit in November for a divorce deal to be signed.

But as the summit came to a close on Thursday evening, it was rumours that the PM could agree to extend the UK's Brexit transition period beyond 2020 in a bid to secure a deal that sparked fury from Tory MPs.

He added: "It will have a land border with the European Union which is not a land border and so allowances can be made by the European Union for Northern Ireland".

But the EU has rejected that because it says it appears to offer Britain too many trading advantages without deeper negotiations which it is only willing to start after Britain has left the Union.

In an open letter Thursday to May, leading Brexiteers accused the European Union of "bullying" and said the border issue was being used as "a trap" by the bloc.

An extended transition period would not solve a fundamental problem with the EU's backstop proposals, the DUP said.

This week's summit has always been billed as "the moment of truth" when agreement was needed to allow time for ratification before Brexit day in March.

She was also asked what business could do to help on Brexit, to which she suggested firms write to lawmakers in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, to make sure leaders were aware that business needed a resolution.

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May "urged businesses not to lose sight of the prize - that of a smooth trading relationship with the European Union alongside the ability to seek new opportunities and open up new markets with trading partners around the world", her office said.

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

Addressing reporters in Brussels, Mrs May said: "What has now emerged is the idea that an option to extend the implementation period could be a further solution to this issue of the backstop in Northern Ireland".

"Today, we do not know what they want".

"As long as we don't have a solution we won't be able to explain exactly how it can succeed", she said Thursday.

Pro-EU politicians, meanwhile, said the transition period proposal was another sign of May's weak bargaining hand and an attempt to stall for time.

Both sides think an extension would allow for more time to find a solution to the Irish border.

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