European Union leaders gather for 'moment of truth' Brexit summit

Saul Bowman
October 18, 2018

But that idea has been shot down by Europe's chief negotiator, Ireland's prime minister and members of her own party, who want the ability to do trade deals with the rest of the world.

The country's deputy prime minister Simon Coveney reacted positively to reports that European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier was open to pushing the implementation period back a year to end in December 2021. "No one wants these negotiations to fail, neither the European Union nor Theresa May want a hard Brexit", Mr Kurz said. That doesn't mean they will fail.

Business Insider reported last week that Leadsom, Mordaunt and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey were all prepared to quit Cabinet if the prime minister did not change her plans for the Brexit backstop.

The meeting is the occasion when the leaders of the remaining 27 member states were supposed to give the green light for a special summit in November to finalise the terms of Britain's withdrawal.

"The problem with May is that she can not guarantee us a "result", the diplomat added, referring to the vote in the United Kingdom parliament on any Brexit deal.

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed the tougher tone coming from the 27 other governments, whose leaders will gather over dinner after a presentation by May.

She also emphasised that once out of the EU, Britain could not expect to have the same rights as EU members.

But leaders were openly saying that there would be "no breakthrough" at the summit, which was long billed as the "moment of truth" when a deal must be done to give time for ratification by the date of Brexit on March 29 2019.

Britain says it has not asked for an extension, but May has not yet come up with proposals for unblocking the border logjam.

Michel Barnier briefed the leaders of other European Union member states ahead of a summit on Wednesday and told them he would be willing to grant Theresa May a one-year extension in return for her agreement to the option of a "two-tier" backstop in Northern Ireland.

Last December, Theresa May said Britain would create arrangements for keeping the border open in the absence of a trade deal after the Brexit transition.

According to Downing Street, Mrs May told the session that progress was being made in talks and she could get an outcome that honoured the referendum result and did not risk splitting the UK. However, May is also under pressure from Brexit supporters to cut ties to the bloc as soon as possible.

And he asked the PM to confirm Treasury legal advice to Cabinet that the Government would have to pay the European Union a "divorce bill" of £30 billion even if no Brexit deal was secured.

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. He will brief them on how the European Union executive is stepping up planning and guidance for governments on what must be done to cope with Britain leaving on March 29 with no treaty in place.

"Both sides want to get a deal done here, and I think we allow the negotiating teams to set the pace with a view to making recommendations, hopefully by mid-November, that a new summit is necessary to sign off on a final deal".

A joint pre-summit plea from the European auto and vehicle parts sector warned disruption to cross-Channel supply chains would be "catastrophic" and wipe out much of a quarter-century of recovery in England's vehicle industry.

In an interview with hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, he said that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would have found the focus on the Irish border in the Brexit negotiations to be unacceptable.

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