Britain's May confronts EU leaders amid Brexit crisis

Clay Curtis
October 17, 2018

On Monday, Mrs May insisted that a Brexit deal is still "achievable", despite deadlock in negotiations over the thorny issue of the Irish backstop.

"There is still a chance to achieve a good and sustainable exit accord", Merkel told parliament ahead of a crunch European Union summit in Brussels that will focus on Brexit.

Mrs May will address the remaining 27 European Union leaders before Wednesday's Brussels meeting, which had been billed as "the moment of truth" for Brexit but now seems certain to pass without a deal on the UK's withdrawal.

What do both sides want out of the summit?

The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was open to extending Britain's Brexit transition by another year.

But her own Eurosceptic Conservative MPs are demanding this "backstop" arrangement be time-limited, something the European Union will not accept.

"We want to secure a deal as quickly as possible".

Leaders will decide at dinner after May has left them on Wednesday whether to firm up a tentative plan to hold a special Brexit summit in mid-November.

Britain leaves the European Union on March 29 but a deal must be sealed soon so relevant parliaments have time to give their verdict.

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She said: "He asks me if the Chequers plan is dead, the answer is no".

Mrs May will also have bilateral meetings with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council president Donald Tusk, and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

"These are absolutely crucial days ahead in the history of our country and we must be absolutely focused on achieving a sensible Brexit deal and holding the government to account, but the type of reckless language being bandied about by some members of the DUP does nothing to win friends for unionism when we need every friend we can get".

But, sensing more urgency in London, senior European Union officials said Brussels would "keep calm and carry on", ready to wait till December or even later to clinch a final agreement.

The cabinet meeting yesterday did not consider a specific wording on any deal, nor make any decisions, but was a discussion about the negotiations and unity.

It was a gruelling House of Commons experience for May, who was grilled by all sides of the Brexit argument and reminded of how many factions she must please to have a chance of getting a Brexit deal through Parliament.

"What I would say to Boris is be careful because there is a real danger that if all of us Conservative MPs do not stand behind the Prime Minister at a moment like this, the danger is that Brexit will be derailed altogether", he told the Daily Mail.

The prime minister failed to reassure MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party that there'd be no new regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom after Brexit, and received a kicking from numerous pro-EU MPs, including up to 10 MPs who urged May to back another referendum.

But I simply can not see her agreeing to this, because it would be too close to the final date for the next election and maybe 100 plus of her MPs would go tonto with rage.

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