Brexit Deal Still Possible, May Tells EU Leaders in ‘Goodwill’ Speech
The speech of the British leader is said to have “improved the atmosphere” after Sunday’s breakdown in the Brexit talks.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has told the leaders of the EU 27 that a Brexit deal could still be reached in a speech she delivered at the European Council summit originally expected to be the deadline for a British withdrawal agreement.
The leaders of the European Union member states met in Brussels on Wednesday for their regular summit, days after the Brexit talks stalled on Sunday, mostly over the issue of the Irish border and the backstop deal insisted upon by the EU.
“We have shown we can do difficult deals together constructively. I remain confident of a good outcome,” she told the leaders, according to a British official cited by Reuters.
“The last stage will need courage, trust and leadership on both sides,” the British leader argued during her 15-minute speech.
Her plea for “intensive work” to reach a deal was followed by the EU leaders’ reaffirming that no special European Council on Brexit would be scheduled for November 17 – 18, 2018, at least for the time being.
May’s new speech to the EU 27 leaders came less than a month after her address at the informal EU summit in Salzburg, Austria, was not well received.
This time, however, the tone of the British Prime Minister appears to have been less blunt and considerably calmer, according to the cited EU officials.
“The tone was more relaxed than in Salzburg, undoubtedly. There is a message of goodwill,” said Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament.
“But I did not perceive anything substantially new in terms of content … The tone was of someone who wants to reach an agreement,” he added.
The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who briefed the leaders, believes a deal must be done by December to allow parliaments in the EU and Britain enough time to vote on it.
“I am optimistic that we can reach a deal in the next weeks or months,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.
Much of the discussion among the EU 27 leaders during the dinner in May’s absence was focused on the prospects of the British leader being able to get any deal through the Parliament in London, according to an aide of French President Emmanuel Macron.
Some of the MPs in May’s Conservative Party openly prefer a no-deal Brexit to keeping the UK tied to EU rules beyond the Brexit date of March 29, 2019.
Tajani revealed he suggested to May extending the post-Brexit transition period by one year, until the end of 2021 to allow enough time to strike an EU – UK trade deal.
During that period Britain would supposedly retain EU rules, thus avoiding the immediate emergence of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, in the meantime, London would have no so in the EU, making the proposal potentially highly unpopular.
“The atmosphere has improved. There is more trust and willingness to move forward together,” one EU diplomat closely involved in the negotiations said regarding May’s speech before the EU 27 leaders.
(Banner image: European Council on Twitter)