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UK mulls 'new idea' to extend Brexit transition period

By Caoimhe Toman

Date: Thursday 18 Oct 2018

UK mulls 'new idea' to extend Brexit transition period

(Sharecast News) - Theresa May said she is open to negotiating a longer Brexit transition period to allow more time to agree to a solution with the EU about the Irish border, with a feared potential cost of £12bn to £15bn.
The proposal was brought up in meetings between the Prime Minister and EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, Downing Street said.

While May would be likely to face further criticism from Tory Eurosceptics and risk increasing the divorce EU bill if she agrees to extending the transition from the agreed December 2020, she insisted on Thursday that the extension would just be a matter of months.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, May said there were differences over the Irish border backstop, which would be a default agreement to ensure there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland if the future relationship is not in place by the end of 2020.

"Now, the original proposal from the EU is one that we could not accept in the UK. It would have created a customs border down the Irish Sea. Earlier in the year we put forward a proposal as to how to deal with this issue," May said.

"A further idea that has emerged - and it is an idea at this stage - is to create an option to extend the implementation period for a matter of months - and it would only be for a matter of months. But the point is that this is not expected to be used, because we are working to ensure that we have that future relationship in place by the end of December 2020."

An extension of the transition period could mean additional budget contributions to the EU on top of the £39bn divorce bill, which some commentators noted would mean discussions on the divorce bill could be reopened.

The potential cost of the extension would be another £10.8bn, according to the BBC and the Sun newspaper, or as much as £15bn, according to Tory MP Nick Bowles.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said on Thursday: "The risk of no deal is already biting hard on business. With each week that passes, firms are accelerating their contingency planning, diverting investment and costing jobs. And many firms, especially smaller businesses, simply have no time to prepare. All efforts should focus on securing transition to relieve pressure on firms, protecting people, wages and living standards across Europe.

"If extending the transition period makes the Withdrawal Agreement easier to agree it should be welcomed. Securing the transition period remains the top priority for business to protect jobs and investment."

EU leaders had been disappointed on Wednesday when May gave no new alternatives to the Irish border issue in her speech. Antonio Tajani, the president of the European parliament said: "I did not pick up anything substantially new in terms of content. I was listening to Mrs May. It was the tone of someone who want to reach an agreement [but] there is no change in content."

According to the Guardian, an EU source said that the leaders had decided over dinner that they would not call a special Brexit summit in November, since sufficient progress in the talks had not been made. It is expected that leaders will confirm this on Thursday.

The source said: "The EU27 leaders stand ready to convene a European council, if and when the union negotiator reports that decisive progress has been made. For now, EU27 is not planning to organise an extraordinary summit on Brexit in November."

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned at the summit that the negotiators needed "much more time" to reach a deal: "We continue to do the work in the next weeks calmly and patiently."

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