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.

Just Posted

Maple Ridge’s Tiller’s Folly kick off international music series in Surrey

Come Dancing Around the World takes place at the Surrey Arts Centre

Rescuers battle fog, wind, rain on stormy Maple Ridge mountain

Four hikers rescued Sunday in Golden Ears park

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Largest driving factor is the province’s complex stumpage system that results in high fees, expert says

20 day search for missing Labradoodle in Princeton, B.C. ends with tears of joy

The search brought out bloodhounds, and groups hoping to find Mordy

Canucks sign Brock Boeser to three-year, US$17.6-million deal

Young sniper will be in Vancouver Tuesday

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

Guilty plea in Lower Mainland break-and-enter spree

Gordon Vincent Gladstone, 42, was charged with 12 counts relating to a dozen incidents in late 2018

Vancouver police officer hit with bear spray mid-arrest

Officer had been trying to arrest a woman wanted province-wide

Most Read