British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, hugs Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, as they meet in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 when European leaders meet to negotiate on terms of Britain’s divorce from the European Union. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Britain, EU decide to take some time in getting Brexit right

Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “we need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks.”

Leaders from the European Union and Britain shrugged off a weekend negotiating debacle and previous deadlines Wednesday, giving themselves several more weeks to clinch a friendly divorce deal ahead of their separation.

After the EU insisted for months that the Wednesday summit was a key meeting to get a deal, its Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “we need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks” with his British counterpart.

British Prime Minister Theresa May also spoke about “working intensively over the next days and weeks” to achieve agreement that avoids a no-deal departure from the bloc on March 29 that could create chaos at the borders and in the economy. A deal must be sealed soon so parliaments have time to give their verdict on it.

Underscoring the newfound sense of non-urgency, Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, even spoke of the “coming weeks and months” to get a deal and sought to impose a soothing calm.

“There’s no need to dramatize matters. It’s always the case with negotiations, that in the end there are challenges,” he said.

May was preparing to address other EU leaders one day after European Council President Donald Tusk implored her to present new ideas for resolving the tricky problem of how to keep the land border between the Republic of Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland friction-free once Britain no longer is an EU member.

Related: EU’s Barnier hopes Brexit deal possible in ‘coming weeks’

Related: In TV interview, Trump claims queen called Brexit ‘complex’

Tusk advised May that “creative” thinking from Britain was required to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, the issue that has brought divorce negotiations to a standstill. EU leaders dismissed May’s most recent proposal as unworkable.

But when the prime minister was asked in the House of Commons earlier Wednesday whether her government’s blueprint for an amicable divorce was dead, May replied: “The answer is no.”

The summit in Brussels had long been seen as the “moment of truth” in the two-year Brexit process. But after urgent talks on the Irish border ended Sunday without producing a breakthrough, Wednesday’s gathering looked more like a therapeutic bonding session than an occasion to celebrate.

The timeline for a deal has slipped into November, or even December, when another EU summit is scheduled.

“Today there will be no breakthrough,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. She said 2 1/2 years after Britain’s Brexit referendum, the country had still not explained clearly how it wants to leave the EU.

“Today, we do not know what they want,” she said. “They do not know themselves what they really want. That is the problem.”

At present the two sides are proposing that Britain remains inside the EU single market and is still bound by its rules from the time it leaves the bloc in March until December 2020, to give time for new trade relations to be set up.

Many suspect that will not be enough time, which has led the EU to demand a “backstop” to ensure there are no customs posts or other controls along the currently invisible border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

And there is talk that a transition period for the U.K. to adapt to its new status as a third country could be extended by a year.

Britain says it has not asked for an extension, but May has not yet come up with proposals for unblocking the Irish border logjam. She is hemmed in by pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party, who oppose any more compromises with the bloc, and by her parliamentary allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, who insist a solution can’t include customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.

___

Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story.

Raf Casert, Lorne Cook And Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wetaskiwin police say thief broke into locker, stole debit card

Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate theft, fraud, seek information and ID suspect

Two men charged after stolen vehicles, property seized near Wetaskiwin

Wetaskiwin/Camrose RCMP investigate possession of stolen property, more

Rosebrier 4-H Beef Club January report

Rosebrier public speaking event coming up this weekend

UPDATE Human remains found in Manny’s Motel ruins

UPDATE RCMP Major Crimes Unit Investigate Fatal Fire in Wetaskiwin

Wetaskiwin Legion ‘Branch Briefings’

Branch #86 is planning its 90th anniversary

VIDEO: Canada’s first presumptive case of coronavirus officially confirmed

Both patient and wife arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Alberta premier wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

Kenney: ‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

VAUGHAN: Childhood heroes like Kobe are supposed to be immortal

Kobe Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter crash that claimed the lives of nine people

VIDEO: Music stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Grammys award show

Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant

VIDEO: Alberta man hopes billboard will find him a kidney donor

Jim Lomond has a rare disorder that causes inflammation and damages his kidney tissues

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Most Read