PM May welcomes confirmed EU Brexit transition offer
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[March 23, 2018]
By Elizabeth Piper and Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - British Prime Minister
Theresa May welcomed on Friday the approval by European Union leaders of
a 21-month transition period to help business adapt after Brexit,
telling the bloc to ride the "new dynamic" in looming trade talks.
EU leaders also formally adopted on Friday their joint negotiating
stance on a future trade relationship with Britain after it leaves the
bloc, said the chairman of the summit, Donald Tusk.
"I welcome the fact that the EU Council this morning has agreed the
details of the implementation period," May told reporters. "This gives
certainty to people and businesses. It gives them the clarity to plan
for their future."
"I believe there is a new dynamic now in the negotiations," she said.
"We will now be sitting down and determining those workable solutions
for Northern Ireland but also for our future security partnership and
The coup for May comes at the expense of having to kick into the long
grass any fix to the politically sensitive issue of the Irish border
Both sides say they do not want to go back to border checks between the
Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - as was the case during
decades of violence in the British province.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar highlighted the EU stance that the
transition would only become final as part of a broader deal between the
bloc and London, which means they have to settle on all outstanding
issues - including the Irish border - first.
"As Ireland ... we're not the ones who are leaving so we are not under
time pressure in that regard," Varadkar told reporters. "Nothing is
agreed until everything is agreed."
Under pressure from the EU and determined to get the interim transition
deal to ease business concerns about the practical effects of Brexit,
London agreed that its final agreement with the bloc would include an
emergency backstop for Ireland.
[to top of second column]
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades talks with French President
Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Donald Tusk and European
Parliament President Antonio Tajani as they attend a European Union
leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Eric
For the EU that would mean continuing to treat Northern Ireland as if it
remained inside the bloc's customs union even after the end of the transition
period at the end of 2020. The EU says that would prevent border checks on the
May, who says Britain will also be leaving the EU's single market and the
customs union, has strongly rejected that. But the two sides agreed some sort of
emergency solution will be there to avoid an Irish border if everything else
"If we can have an agreement on the terms backstop or an alternative to the
backstop before June, that's something we would very much welcome," Varadkar
The Brexit schedule assumes the bloc and London would agree on the divorce deal,
the transition and a framework for their future relationship in the summer so
that the 27 EU leaders could endorse it at their summit in October and take it
back to their national capitals for ratification, hopefully early next year and
before the Brexit date.
The bloc's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the new deal with Britain,
talks on which are due to start next month, "will have to respect the principles
and the identity of the EU and our single market".
(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Julia Fioretti; Editing by
Matthew Mpoke Bigg)
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