Not enough progress has been made on Brexit, EU leaders say

Belga  PA Images

Belga PA Images

"But I did not perceive anything substantially new in terms of content".

He explained how Mrs May had repeated her insistence that she would not assent to anything that would leave Northern Ireland in the EU's customs jurisdiction without the rest of the UK. May would like to see the solution be part of a comprehensive trade and security agreement, whereas the European Union insists on the backstop.

A senior Labour source said, "We've not called for any extension and the only reason it's being discussed is because of the abject failure of the government's negotiating".

This is the issue that is now blocking progress in Brexit talks.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said: "We took our steps".

Her difficulties were laid bare by the fury sparked back home at her suggestion that she could extend a post-Brexit transition period to address the Irish border issue.

However, according to the European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, who was also in the room, May offered no new ideas.

Somehow, a border of sorts will have to be drawn between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and European Union member country Ireland to allow customs control over goods, produce and livestock once the U.K. has left the bloc.

The proposed 12-month extension would cost billions of pounds in EU fees and leave Britain under European rules for nearly six years after the referendum result.

The UK is due to leave the EU at the end of March 2019, by which time any deal would have to be passed by the British and European parliaments, as well as national assemblies across the bloc.

They said this would "undermine the integrity" of the UK. "That would backfire spectacularly".

At the end of the summit, Mrs May said good progress was being made on the UK's withdrawal agreement, but acknowledged that "a few, but considerable, outstanding issues" remained to be resolved.

"Everybody around the table wants to get a deal".

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"I'm clear that it is possible to do that (deal) and that is what we are working for".

"I am still cautiously optimistic [about the deal]".

Following this week's European Union summit, Michel Barnier claimed the agreement was nearly complete while warning the outstanding 10 per cent covered the most contentious issues that could still scupper the talks. The boundary has been largely invisible since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of sectarian violence known as the Troubles, and both sides have said they want to avoid any return to a hard border.

And Mrs May did not respond when asked whether she would welcome an additional year's transition. "There is still time for the drama to play".

It was a marked change of tone since May's Brexit minister Dominic Raab left Brussels on Sunday after the more than year-long Brexit talks broke down over the border issue. Westminster rises on December 20 for Christmas.

In his response to that speech, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party said, "This really is beginning to feel like Groundhog Day".

In fact, it could be the fury of May's own party - along with criticism from Labour and the DUP - that pushes Britain closer to leaving the European Union with a deal.

The Times goes one step further, reporting that Germany and France are in "deal mode".

The problem is that a "deal sold in this country as a contingent backstop would be treated by Eurocrats as a definitive settlement", says pro-Brexit MEP Daniel Hannan in the Daily Telegraph. If it was not passed, any amendments would be regarded as merely "points of view". CBC's Margaret Evans looks at what could potentially happen as Britain barrels towards Brexit.

Both leaders spoke by telephone earlier this week, however there were no indications they are closer to resolving the outstanding Irish border issue.

But in an interview with the BBC, the Scottish Secretary insisted it was not a threat to quit. "The Government is trying to stop Parliament having its say".

A backlash from Brexiteers and Remainers came after the prime minister hinted prolonging the post-Brexit arrangement beyond December 2020 was "an option" to break the deadlock in talks.

Before travelling to Brussels, Mrs May vowed to protect the "precious Union of the United Kingdom" as she answered questions in the House of Commons.

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