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European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, 10 October 2018. AP/PA Images

EU suggests extending transition period to secure Irish backstop - reports

The UK has to enter the transition period to leave the EU by the 29 March – that’s if there’s a Brexit deal at all.

THE EU’S CHIEF NEGOTIATOR Michel Barnier is open to extending the Brexit transition period by a year in exchange for assurances on the backstop for Northern Ireland, according to the Financial Times.

On the eve of a crucial EU Council Summit, EU diplomats told the FT that Barnier is willing to extend the transition period from 21 months, ending in December 2020 to a year later.

The reason for offering such an extension would be to ensure that a “two tier backstop” is in place as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement: this would mean a backstop for the UK where they would be part of a customs union, and a backstop for Northern Ireland where they would remain in the Customs Union and Single Market.

Barnier said earlier today, on the record, that there isn’t enough time left to strike a deal; EU Council President Donald Tusk said that he “has no grounds for optimism” about tomorrow’s summit.

There’s currently a deadlock in Brexit talks over the backstop – a plan B to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. Although all sides want to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, neither side has suggested an agreement that could achieve this without compromising the integrity of either the EU or the UK.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly said that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” – meaning that if the backstop isn’t specified, then all agreements up until now amount to nothing.

She’s also said that any arrangement that “carves off” Northern Ireland from Great Britain would be unacceptable to the UK government. The DUP are supporting the Tories minority government since June 2017 when May called a snap election and lost her majority.

If the UK go crashing out of the EU, that would most likely mean the return to custom posts and a hard border in Ireland.

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