UK PM seeking to extend Brexit transition period

European Council president Donald Tusk at a media conference

Tajani said he raised with May the possibility the post-Brexit transition period, during which Britain would retain European Union rules and avoid border problems with Ireland, could be extended by a year to 2021 - something European Union negotiators proposed to soften a demand for special rules for Northern Ireland.

But no deal was reached, and the leaders of the 27 remaining European Union states decided not to call a special Brexit summit in November after chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he needed "much more time" for talks.

With the deadlock, this week's summit, which had been billed as a make-or-break moment, turned simply into a chance for Britain and the European Union to give themselves more time _ perhaps until the end of the year _ to break the logjam. "And I think we would only be talking about a matter of months when there is that gap", she said.

Stephen Phipson, director-general at the manufacturers' association, EEF, told the Financial Times: "The offer to extend the transition period by the prime minister is a pragmatic and sensible offer which the vast majority of manufacturers would welcome".

The government needs to win the vote in order to ratify any agreement but opponents are likely to try to amend the wording of the motion to make parliament's approval subject to extra conditions, such as a second Brexit referendum.

The 27 leaders then refused to sign off on a special November summit planned to seal the divorce deal, pushing any agreement back to a December summit - just four months before Brexit.

In the event of a "no-deal Brexit", any transition period plans are liable to disintegrate.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the final press conference during the Euro Summit in Brussels, Belgium.

Britain says it has not asked for an extension, but May has not yet come up with proposals for unblocking the border logjam.

The issue of the backstop - an insurance mechanism that will kick in in the event that neither side is able to agree a future trading arrangement - remains the biggest obstacle to the negotiations progressing. "It doesn't resolve any of the underlying issues and keeps us in a painful Brexit holding pattern".

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"May is testing the water by saying that she is open to an extension, but her proposal for one only as a fallback option and only for a few months, reflects her concerns about the political backlash", she said.

"His comments were followed by the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who tweeted that he was ready to resume the talks, but warned: "[An] orderly Brexit must include a solid, all-weather backstop to avoid a hard border in IE/NI".

A senior British official confirmed Thursday that London's position has not changed, although Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar suggested there might be room for compromise.

But the DUP, who are propping up Mrs May's minority government in a confidence-and-supply agreement, has dismissed the proposal because it would create a new border in the Irish Sea - effectively separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom and threatening the integrity of the Union.

May sidestepped the issue at her end of summit press conference, where she pointed to European Union expressions of goodwill as proof that a deal could be done.

Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament President, said: "I listened carefully to what May had to say. But it's maybe a more emotional impression than a rational one".

Addressing the summit, Theresa May said there was a "lot of hard work ahead" and "difficult moments" as negotiators enter the final stage of talks.

An further year could help the United Kingdom and the EU negotiate a future trade deal, and could ease the burden for May on agreeing to a so-called backstop on the Irish border issue that would keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and the single market for goods.

The idea, diplomats said, was being "tentatively explored".

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