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European Union calls for new proposals from Theresa May to break Brexit deadlock

18 October 2018

Today, Mrs May will have further bilateral meetings, having had talks on Wednesday with Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, Donald Tusk, the European Council President, Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, and Emmanuel Macron, the French President.

May and other European Union leaders all expressed cautious optimism Wednesday that an agreement could be achieved in time to avoid an economically disruptive "no-deal" Brexit in March.

Mr Tajani also revealed the prime minister told European Union leaders she will "keep under consideration" the possibility of extending the Brexit transition period - perhaps for another 12 months - although he added Mrs May offered a "neutral" opinion on such a scenario.

The Brexit negotiations are in a deep freeze over how to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic stays open if no full-blown trade deal is struck by the end of transition in 2020 - the so-called backstop.

Arriving for the talks, he said "we need time, we need much more time" for talks, vowing to work "calmly and patiently" for a deal in the coming weeks.

But the extension would grant more time to agree a new EU-UK trade relationship and avoid the need for separate plans for Northern Ireland, which London staunchly opposes.

The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, welcomed what he said was Mrs May's constructive tone but added that she had offered "nothing new" of substance.

"I'm convinced that if we as a government stand together and stand firm, we can achieve this", she said, according to her spokesman.

European leaders are now discussing another summit in November - or even December before the holidays - to secure a possible accord.

Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted that any backstop must be time-limited, but the Irish government has already ruled this out.

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The main contention point in the negotiations is terms surrounding the Northern Ireland border.

Mr Roth made clear that Germany is alive to the problems Mrs May could face in getting any deal through Parliament, telling reporters: "I have the impression that it is hard to secure the appropriate parliamentary majority in Great Britain".

Both sides agree there must be no hard border, but each has rejected the other side's solution.

A spokesperson for the prime minister refused to categorically rule out an extended transition period earlier on Wednesday, telling reporters in Westminster: "We're not calling for an extension to the implementation deal".

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Mr Tusk said: "As I see it, the only source of hope for a deal, for now, is the goodwill and determination on both sides".

However, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė suggested Mrs May's struggle to forge a consensus among her own Conservative MPs was to blame for Brexit difficulties.

Number 10 did say progress had been made on the vital issues of the future trade framework, and the notion of a whole United Kingdom backstop for both customs and some single market regulations.

"We do not know what they want, they do not know themselves what they really want - that's the problem".

May's cabinet have told her they will not accept either an indefinite backstop - or one that leaves Northern Ireland in a different regulatory regime.

Tusk has made it clear that if May and Barnier do not signal concrete progress towards a draft deal he will not call the planned November summit.

European Union calls for new proposals from Theresa May to break Brexit deadlock