May in final attempt to clinch Brexit deal

The border on the island of Ireland remains the thorniest issue

British PM Theresa May stepped up last week attempts to get European support for a draft Brexit deal as negotiations on securing a smooth divorce with the EU enter final stage, news wires reported. Less than five months before Britain is due to leave the EU, a deal is 95% done. But officials have repeatedly cautioned they are still haggling over the fate of the land border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. May told her cabinet last Tuesday that more time was needed to clear the final hurdle and ensure no hard border emerges on the island of Ireland.

The EU wants to see a breakthrough within a week if leaders are to endorse any Brexit deal in November, but an EU Brexit summit scheduled for 17-18 November is no longer on the cards, official and diplomatic sources told Reuters. There is only a slim chance that an agreement between British and EU negotiators can be reached in time to hold such a summit, according to one British official.

After May discussed Brexit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Donald Tusk, British ministers were shown the text of a deal which is almost agreed. She was to meet other EU leaders on Thursday in France and Belgium at commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. May is scheduled to have lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron and dinner with other leaders of the NATO military alliance in Brussels.

The deal - or the lack of one - will shape Britain's prosperity for generations to come and have long-term consequences for the EU's global clout. Both sides need an agreement to keep trade flowing between the world's biggest trading bloc and the fifth largest global economy. The other 27 members of the EU combined have about five times the economic might of Britain.

May wants a deal - both on a withdrawal agreement and a framework for future ties – to be reached before year-end as she must get the deal approved by the British parliament. If she fails to clinch a Brexit deal with the EU, or parliament votes down her deal, then Britain would face leaving without a divorce deal, and thus without a transition period. Many business chiefs and investors fear such a “no-deal” Brexit would weaken the West, panic financial markets and block the global trade.

The EU holds a regular summit on 13-14 December, when decision on Brexit should be made. “We are not there yet. The clock is ticking. The choices need to be made now on the UK side,” EU negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters last Wednesday. “There are still important issues outstanding.”

More on this subject: Brexit

Similar articles

  • Italy defied the EC by sticking to a big-spending budget plan

    Italy defied the EC by sticking to a big-spending budget plan

    Italy's 5-Star Movement-League government of PM Giuseppe Conte has chosen not to back down in a tussle with the European Commission over its budget plan for 2019, ANSA reported. The Commission has given 3 weeks until Tuesday to Rome to significantly change the package, which sees Italy running a deficit of 2.4% of GDP next year, saying otherwise it may open an infringement procedure for failing to respect the Stability and Growth Pack.

  • Downing Street: Draft Brexit deal with EU reached

    Downing Street: Draft Brexit deal with EU reached

    British and EU negotiators have reached a framework Brexit agreement that will be examined by the UK cabinet at an emergency meeting on Wednesday, PM Theresa May’s office announced. Downing Street says in a statement that the government will meet at 2:00pm (1400 GMT) on Wednesday to consider the draft agreement the negotiating teams have reached in Brussels, and to decide on next steps.

  • Czech PM's political future hangs on a threat

    Czech PM's political future hangs on a threat

    Opposition demands no-confidence vote on Andrej Babis’s minority government due to his son's allegations of kidnapping

    Andrej Babis, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, is facing a potential political crisis after he has been accused of authorising the kidnapping of his son Andrej Babis Junior to stop him from testifying in alleged criminal fraud in his father’s business dealings. Andrej Babis Junior, who was under investigation along with his father for EU subsidy fraud, was quoted saying Seznam news site yesterday that associates of the PM had persuaded him last year to either “take an extended holiday” in Crimea or risk to be forcibly admitted to a psychiatric hospital.