Brexit Talks: Some EU members contemplate no-deal plans

Dexeu               The letter from Dominic Raab

Divorce talks between Britain and the bloc have stalled on the issue of the Irish border, which will be the UK's only land frontier with the European Union after Brexit.

If the need for solutions was high, the British prime minister's Wednesday evening presentation to European leaders did not impress, with European Parliament President Antonio Tajani saying he "did not perceive anything substantially new in content".

The UK has signed up to the principle of a Irish border backstop - an insurance policy created to prevent the need for customs checks - but the two sides can not agree what form the backstop will take and how long it will last.

Meanwhile, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the UK's withdrawal agreement could still fail over the issue of the Irish border, leading to an "extremely serious" no-deal Brexit.

France did not rule out a possible lengthening of Britain's post-Brexit transition period if it helps advance negotiations with London, but any extension would come with conditions, an official in President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Thursday.

"I don't have an intimate conviction on this matter because the political situation is extremely complex in the United Kingdom", Barnier said. Brexit must be orderly for everyone and for all the issues, including on the island of Ireland.

They added: "This is the time for cool, calm heads to prevail".

While staunch Brexiteer Nadine Dorries called for former Brexit secretary David Davis to step in as "interim leader" over the possibility of an extended transition period, Tory backbencher Johnny Mercer described the current administration as a "shit show" in a fiery interview on Thursday.

One prominent Brexit supporter, Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg, told Reuters that any extension to the transition was "a bad and expensive idea".

At the European Union (EU) summit yesterday, there was no breakthrough in Brexit negotiations - the United Kingdom is set to leave the EU on 29 March, but the withdrawal has yet to be finalised.

A senior European Union official later said Mrs May had indicated she was "ready to consider" a longer transition period.

The idea would allow more time to resolve the Irish border conundrum which is threatening to derail the whole process - but it has immediately been shot down by her critics.

In this photo taken on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, a man walk past a section of one of the Northern Ireland "peace walls" in Cupar Way, Belfast. "That would backfire spectacularly".

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Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, which is the EU's executive branch, also welcomed the idea.

"Everybody around the table wants to get a deal".

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said: "I am optimistic that we can reach a deal in the next weeks or months". "I believe a deal is achievable and now is the time to make it happen", declared the PM. A senior European Union ambassador in Britain said only a few days earlier that failing to offer a November summit would be outright discourteous toward the UK.

"Today we do not know what they want".

"I want to see what the outcome is and the detail", they told BI. "It is a problem", she declared. They asked her about Brexit. "There is still time for the drama to play".

Another big date arrives on January 21, when May faces a final deadline to send a Brexit deal to Parliament. Westminster rises on December 20 for Christmas.

"On 29 March, it's game over", he said.

But unless they reach 100% by early December, Britain risks crashing out of the European Union without a deal. Pro-Brexit MPs made fresh calls for May to be ousted.

"Politicians may be able to make late, last night decisions in rooms in the new year or in December but businesses are going to make plans long before that".

Mr Raab noted: "Anything other than a straightforward approval of the deal will bring with it huge uncertainty for business, consumers and citizens".

"We have shown we can do hard deals together constructively", the PM said.

Arriving in Brussels, Mrs May insisted there had been "very good progress" since last month's meeting in Salzburg, when she was humiliatingly told that her Chequers plan for Brexit would not work. "The Government is trying to stop Parliament having its say".

"When will you stop urging the Prime Minister to change direction and actually have the guts to stand up and say: 'In the name of God go, you are a disaster as Prime Minister and you are betraying Brexit".

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