The European Council held in Brussels on Wednesday has failed to unblock negotiations on Brexit. Uk’s Prime Minister Theresa May spoke for around 15 minutes on Wednesday evening, delivering a « message of goodwill, » but it was short on substance, said Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, who was in the room for the address. The 27 European leaders were waiting for Theresa May to take a firm position, however, the British prime minister had not provided enough elements to convene a special summit in November as she wanted to because the issue didn’t bring enough progress. Indeed, European leaders have dropped plans for a special November summit to complete a Brexit deal because of a lack of progress in negotiations: the idea was to extend the Brexit transition period from 21 months to 33 months. The possibility to set up a November summit is left open but only if a breakthrough can be reached – and Michel Barnier is the one to report that decisive progress. At the same time, EU officials were ordered to intensify their preparations for a “no-deal” scenario. Nonetheless, according to Theresa May’s official spokesperson, she remained “confident of a good outcome” to the Brexit deal. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 but no consensus has been reached on how this will happen: there are disagreements on how to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The UK has signed up to the principle of a backstop – an insurance policy designed to prevent the need for customs checks – but the two sides cannot agree over what form the backstop will take and how long it will last. As it stands, the transition period – in which the UK would remain in the single market and customs union – is set to last until 31 December 2020.
Adeline SILVA PEREIRA
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