Brexit Deal 95% Done, Irish Border Issue Only ‘Sticking Point’ Left, May Declares
Any extension of the post-Brexit transition period would have be over well before May 2022, the UK leader has warned.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has proclaimed the Brexit talks with the EU “95% complete”, with the Irish border issue the only remaining “sticking point”.
May also told the British MPs she was considering extending the post-Brexit transition period, as suggested by the EU leaders during last week’s summit of the European Council in Brussels.
The UK leader informed the British Parliament that two other issues – the future status of Gibraltar, a UK possession on the Iberian Peninsula, and the British military bases in Cyprus – have been settled with the EU recently.
“Taking all of this together, 95% of the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocols are now settled,” May declared, as cited by BBC News.
She once again reiterated her calls for the EU to make sure by any means necessary that a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit would be avoided.
The suggestion that the post-Brexit transition period be extended by December 31, 2020, to allow more time to hammer out the future economic relationship between the European Union and Britain would also provide for the latter retaining the former’s rules, thus avoiding the immediate coming into force of an Irish border backstop.
The longer transition, however, is opposed by many from both the Leave and Remain camps as it would technically delay Brexit, not to mention the additional cost to London.
Yet, the British leader vowed to explore “every possible solution” to keeping the Irish border open as well as making sure that there are no barriers inside the UK with respect to Northern Ireland.
She suggested the transition extension – which she refers to as “implementation” period – might be preferable to invoking the backstop.
She said the UK should be able to make a “sovereign choice” in December 2020 between extending the transition period for a short period or invoking the backstop – which would see the whole of the UK stay in a temporary, time-limited customs arrangement with the EU.
She suggested the transition option might be preferable as it would “mean only one set of changes for businesses at the point we move to the future relationship”.
“But in any such scenario we would have to be out of this implementation period well before the end of this parliament,” May added, referring to May 2022.
Meanwhile, the UK’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, the leading Brexiteer, defended May’s leadership against any speculations about replacing her.
“[The Tory MPs] need to give her the space to finish the negotiation… it is very difficult to negotiate with the European Union when you also have to negotiate with your own colleagues,” he said while on a visit in New York.
“She is – and will be – the prime minister that leads us out of the European Union at the end of March 2019,” Fox added, throwing his full support behind May.
(Banner image: Theresa May on Twitter)