European Union may offer to extend deadline for Brexit deal to summer

Daniel Fowler
October 9, 2019

No 10 sources claimed Mrs Merkel had told the Prime Minister that Britain could not leave the EU unless it was prepared to leave Northern Ireland behind in a permanent customs union. He has reiterated this position despite MPs passing legislation that forces him to demand a third Brexit delay if a deal is not struck before October 19.

A frustrated Tusk accused Britain of playing with "the future of Europe and the UK" with no clear plan of what the country wanted.

"You don't want a deal, you don't want an extension, you don't want to revoke, quo vadis?"

Downing Street sources claimed German chancellor Angela Merkel had made clear that an agreement was now "overwhelmingly unlikely".

A third said: "I believe Boris was EXACTLY right".

"Parliament's success in passing the Benn Act last month (requiring the PM to request from the European Union an Article 50 extension by 19 October, assuming the European Union and parliament have not agreed to a deal by then) means a Brexit extension looks highly likely (80%)".

He emphasised that the UK's proposal represents a significant step and a reasonable compromise which respects the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, the Single Market and provides for democratic consent in Northern Ireland.

The unnamed source had suggested to the Spectator magazine on Monday night that the United Kingdom would be a truculent member, blocking the EU's plans. The UK government has put forward nothing credible to deal with border issues in Ireland.

They said: "We will make clear privately and publicly that countries which oppose delay will go the front of the queue for future co-operation - co-operation on things both within and outside European Union competences".

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However, Keir Starmer, the Brexit spokesperson for the main opposition Labour Party, said that "this is yet another cynical attempt by Number 10 to sabotage the negotiations", arguing that Johnson's "strategy from day one has been for a no-deal Brexit".

"Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue".

But the two sides are still far apart over future customs arrangements for Northern Ireland, and European Union officials were forced to deny reports from London that talks are close to breaking down.

"For the United Kingdom to be asked to leave a part of its sovereign territory in a foreign organisation of which the UK would no longer be a part and over which we would have no say whatsoever is beyond insane", she said.

She said: "No UK Government could ever concede such a surrender".

However there was said to be surprise among diplomats in Brussels at Mrs Merkel's reported comments, as she has consistently stressed her commitment to achieving a deal.

With just 23 days before the United Kingdom is due to leave the bloc, the future of Brexit remains deeply uncertain and both London and Brussels are positioning themselves to avoid blame for a delay or a disorderly no-deal Brexit.

"The goal of our work is to protect it".

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