Bettel says United Kingdom must 'take decisions now' on Brexit

Erika Holt
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.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One, Mr Collins said: "We were told after the 2016 referendum, during the 2017 general election and afterwards by the Government that we would take control of our waters just like any other natural resource in March 2019".

"I think we are both of the understanding that this is an insurance policy and obviously we want to address all of these issues in a future relationship", she said.

British PM Theresa May appeared to open the way to extend the post-Brexit transition period until December 2021, as European Union leaders offered an olive branch to her in a bid to break the impasse during the European Union summit on Wednesday (17 October).

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on October 17 that he could see the merit in discussing a longer Brexit transition period, but not at the expense of a backstop on the Irish border.

European Union leaders warned Wednesday there must be more progress in Brexit negotiations, despite hearing a personal plea by British Prime Minister Theresa May, who said she was open to a longer transition phase to unblock the talks.

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.

European leaders had hoped to hold a special summit in November to seal the divorce, but at a Brussels dinner without May late Wednesday they refused to sign off on the plan.

Tom Newton Dunn, political editor of the Sun newspaper, commented that May saying a transition extension would only be for a few months feels like the "I'm only half pregnant" defense.

Juri Ratas, the Estonian Prime Minister, struck a more sympathetic tone.

The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, who also spoke, said: "Both sides mentioned the idea of an extension of the transition period as one possibility which is on the table and would have to be looked into".

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Juncker and May, however, remain hopeful that the Brexit deadlock could be broken and an agreement reached.

But the idea is controversial among May's eurosceptic Conservative MPs, who fear it is simply a way of delaying Britain's exit.

Theresa May has told business leaders she knows time is running out to reach a Brexit deal but she is confident it can be done, the head of the Institute of Directors has said.

She also faces a rebellion from her parliamentary partners, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which has threatened to vote against her government's budget if she concedes to the EU's demands over the backstop.

"It's up to the prime minister and her teams to come back to the EU", he merely stated at the conclusion of the European Council on Thursday afternoon, where nothing seemed to have happened.

Asked if the whole deal could founder over the border issue, he replied: "My answer is yes".

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.

At a three-hour cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, which included ministers with reservations about her strategy, May said a deal was possible if they all stood together.

With divorce talks stuck, the bloc has suggested extending that period, to give more time to strike a trade deal that ensures a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Another possible solution is to include provisions for a UK-wide customs union with the EU to kick-in if there is a gap between the transition ending and a free trade deal taking effect. Trade negotiations are complex: the more sectors they cover, the greater the number of stakeholders.

She told reporters in Brussels that negotiations were "always going to get tougher as we got to the closing stages".

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