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EU accepts 21 month Brexit transition offer

European Union leaders formally adopted on Friday their joint negotiating stance on a future trade relationship with Britain after it leaves the bloc.

Reuters | Updated: 23-03-2018 15:48 IST | Created: 23-03-2018 15:48 IST
EU accepts 21 month Brexit transition offer
The bloc's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the new deal with Britain, talks on which are due to start next month. (Image Credit: Wikimedia)

European Union leaders formally adopted on Friday their joint negotiating stance on a future trade relationship with Britain after it leaves the bloc, said the chairman of the summit, Donald Tusk.

That comes together with an offer of a 21-month transition period to help business adapt after Brexit, due in March 2019.

The coup for British Prime Minister Theresa May comes at the expense of another fudge over how to avoid an Irish border.

Both sides say that, after Brexit, they do not want to go back to border checks between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - as was the case during decades of violence in the British province.

Also Read | EU to approve post-Brexit transition offer, confirms Donald Tusk

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar highlighted the EU stance that the transition would only become final as part of a broader deal between bloc and London, which means they have to settle on all outstanding issues - including the Irish border - first.

"As Ireland, we're not under particular time pressure, we're not the ones who are leaving so we are not under time pressure in that regard," Varadkar told reporters. "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."

Under pressure from the EU and determined to get the interim transition deal to ease business concerns about the practical effects of Brexit, London agreed that its final agreement with the bloc would include an emergency backstop for Ireland.

For the EU that would mean to go on treating Northern Ireland as if it remained inside the bloc's customs union even after the end of the transition period at the end of 2020.

May, who says Britain will also be leaving the EU's single market and the customs union, has strongly rejected that. But the two sides agreed some sort of emergency solution will be there to avoid an Irish border if everything else fails.

"If we can have an agreement on the terms backstop or an alternative to the backstop before June, that's something we would very much welcome," Varadkar said.

The Brexit schedule assumes the bloc and London would agree on the divorce deal, the transition and a framework for their future relationship in the summer so that the 27 EU leaders could endorse it at their summit in October and take back to their national capitals for ratification, hopefully early next year and before the Brexit date.

The bloc's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the new deal with Britain, talks on which are due to start next month, "will have to respect the principles and the identity of the EU and our single market".


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