Talks on ‘Uniquely Complicated’ Brexit Can’t Go past March 29, 2019, May Tells EU Leaders
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has told the leaders of the other 27 EU member states that there was no question of the UK seeking to extend the Brexit negotiations beyond March 29, 2019, the projected date of Britain’s exit from the Union.
On Wednesday night, May addressed an informal meeting of the EU leaders in Salzburg, Austria, the first such gathering since the British Cabinet adopted her Brexit blueprint, the controversial White Paper also known as the Chequers plan, which remains heavily criticized within her ruling Conservative Party, while some of its key provisions have been dismissed by the EU.
The British Prime Minister told her EU member state counterparts that Brexit was a “uniquely complicated” challenge but the negotiations to ensure a parting deal between the UK and the EU could still be completed on time, a senior UK government spokesman revealed, as cited by the BBC.
May explicitly made it clear the talks could not go beyond March 29, 2019, when the UK is supposed to quit the EU, thus snubbing calls by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, which would see a delay of the moment of departure.
According to Sturgeon, it would be completely reckless for Britain to leave the EU without establishing a future relationship with it.
“[Taking the UK off the] Brexit cliff edge [without an agreement] would be the most irresponsible thing any Prime Minister has done in a very, very long time,” the Scottish leader had commented earlier.
The British Prime Minister also specified to her EU 27 counterparts her top three priorities in the Brexit talks: protecting Northern Ireland’s place within the UK, safeguarding trading links with the EU and maintaining a close security relationship with the EU.
“[I have] put forward serious proposals and the onus on all of us is to get this done… [to ensure a] shared close relationship,” May insisted.
An EU – UK deal was supposed to be reached by the European Council summit on October 18, 2018, although the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier expects the talks to drag into November; Brexit is set for March 29, 2019.
After the EU leaders’ informal dinner with May’s speech, some of the other state leaders such as Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini revealed there had been no progress on the thorniest issue in the Brexit talks, that of the Ireland – Northern Ireland border.
Before the Salzburg meeting, May was reported to be about to warn the EU not to “demand the unacceptable” precisely with respect to the EU demands for a “backstop” deal on the Irish border to prevent a hard border.
The UK has turned down EU suggestions that Northern Ireland should remain in the EU customs area, while the EU has argued alternative solutions put forth by London would not prevent a hard border.
(Banner image: Austrian EU Presidency on Twitter)