EU, May Open to Extending Post-Brexit Transition Period by ‘Months’

EU, May Open to Extending Post-Brexit Transition Period by ‘Months’

The extension of the post-Brexit transition period “will probably happen”.

The European Union leaders as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May are both considering extending the post-Brexit transition period during which the EU – UK trade relationship would be hammered out.

The option has already been put forth by some EU leaders, and May’s willingness to considering extending the transition period “by a few months” emerged on the second day of the October summit of the European Council in Brussels.

The summit produced no breakthroughs, including on the thorniest issue on how to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, with the EU insisting on a so called backstop deal to achieve that. On the first day of the summit, European Parliament President Antonio Trajani proposed extending the Brexit transition period by 1 year, till the end of 2021.

Presently, the EU and the UK are planning for a transition period of 21 months after Brexit in order to ease into their future relationship. Thus, until the end of 2020, the EU – UK relationship would remain basically the same as before Brexit.

However, a transition period – referred to by May as implementation period – would only be in place if there is no hard Brexit, that is, if any kind of a withdrawal agreement, or at least a joint Brexit declaration (the criticized “blind Brexit” option) is made.

“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 a matter of months,” May told reporters in Brussels, as cited by the BBC.

With strong opposition in her own party in mind, the British leader cautioned that she was not proposing the transition period extension but considering it in order to be able to solve the toughest Brexit issues.

“What we are not doing, we are not standing here proposing an extension to the implementation period,” she said.

“What we are doing is working to ensure that we have a solution to the backstop issue in Northern Ireland,” she added.

“[If} the UK decided an extension of the transition period would be helpful to reach a deal, I am sure the leaders would be ready to consider this positively,” European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters, adding he was in a “much better mood” than after the last summit, in Salzburg.

According to Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, the extension of the transition period “will probably happen”.

“A lot of things have been agreed but there are still big gaps both in terms of the shape of the future relationship and also the protocol on Northern Ireland and Ireland and the backstop,” Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said.

An EU source an EU source is quoted as saying that there would have to be “financial implications” if the UK did extend the transition period.

(Banner image: European Council on Twitter)

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