Brexit - edging closer to a deal or a cliff-edge

Brexit - edging closer to a deal or a cliff-edge”

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier had suggested "more time in the transition period to agree an alternative solution to a backstop". Picture: Reuters All smiles: Leo Varadkar and Theresa May during a meeting in Brussels yesterday.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier sought to calm the mood, saying the only remedy was to use the remaining period between now and Christmas.

The St Austell and Newquay MP said: "The tourism and hospitality sector is very concerned that they will be able to continue to access the seasonal workforce they need once we leave the EU".

Instead, the matter could either be pushed back to December or - more dramatically - the European Union could use the November weekend to meet on preparations for a "no-deal" Brexit. "The tone was more relaxed than in Salzburg, undoubtedly".

Asked by the Press Association if he was concerned that a hard border could result in a return to the Troubles, Gen Dannatt said: "I don't want to see a return to a hard border".

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is desperate to make the Brexit deal work.

Also understood to have attended the meeting were Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and staunch Brexiteers Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and Geoffrey Cox, as well as two ministers who backed Remain in the 2016 referendum, Jeremy Hunt and Liz Truss.

The idea of extending the transition would be to give more time to negotiate a deal on future relations and find a formula to defuse the Irish border question.

During an impressive closing salvo Corbyn said: "The Conservative party has spent two years arguing with itself instead of negotiating a deal in the public interest".

"And what Michel Barnier has indicated very clearly is that the European Union side, certainly, is willing to allow more time in the transition period to agree an alternative solution to a backstop".

It would mean that the 21-month transition period, which runs from the leave date to December 2020, would be extended by another 12 months to December 2021.

"From Ireland's point of view we're willing to consider all proposals which might help us lead to a solution", Mr Varadkar said.

Meanwhile, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said an extended transition period would increase uncertainty for business when they were already anxious about what might happen.

Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier said ‘we need more time’ to reach a deal

May also has to please the Democratic Unionist Party which props up her fragile government.

The proposed extension would buy the United Kingdom more time to agree a trade deal with the bloc, which could then reduce the likelihood that a backstop would need to be implemented in the first place.

Irish officials signalled that a decision may follow today on whether a special November summit will be called.

The meeting with the EU27 was a short one, and it appears there was no progress to be made.

Mr McDonnell said: "We're in the middle of possibly the most important negotiations for a generation and we're having a coup".

He said: "We've always had an open door".

"We do not know what they want, they do not know themselves what they really want - that's the problem".

Her official spokesman later told reporters: "The Cabinet strongly supported her on the importance of maintaining the integrity of the Union and agreed that we must ensure we can not be kept in a backstop arrangement indefinitely".

The prime minister's high-stakes diplomatic mission started with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek from the president of the EU's executive branch, Jean-Claude Juncker.

"Politically speaking, a will was expressed to move forward and reach agreement but there was nothing substantively new in terms of content", Tajani told reporters.

"But I still believe that this agreement is possible and our goal is to find the solution and to find the way".

"I don't think it will happen, I don't want it to happen, it would be a disaster if it did happen, it must not happen".

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