Barnier to visit Dublin as May seeks further Brexit delay

British PM asks EU to set exit date for June 30th despite Corbyn citing ‘no obvious’ progress

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn says that the Labour party's position remains that there has to be a customs union for Brexit Britain to ensure a good relationship with the EU and avoid unregulated trade.

 

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will visit Dublin on Monday for Brexit talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach confirmed that Mr Barnier and his team would travel to Dublin in advance of Wednesday’s emergency EU summit in Brussels.

“This is part of his frequent visits to EU27 capitals,” the spokesman said. “The aim is to take stock of developments in London as well as the ongoing planning for a possible no-deal scenario.” 

Mr Barnier will also meet Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue.

“What he [MR BARNIER]will want to do first of all is show solidarity with Ireland,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ News. “But also I think he’ll want a detailed conversation in terms of Ireland’s perspective on the most recent ask from the prime minister for an extension of time.”

Mr Coveney added: “Ireland is of course willing to give the process more time, but we like many other EU member states will want to see a plan to go with that to show that there is a proposed way of finding a majority support in Westminster for a way forward.”

Earlier, British prime minister Theresa May wrote to European Council president Donald Tusk asking to delay Brexit until June 30th.

The move is aimed at allowing divided British politicians to agree a withdrawal deal.

“The United Kingdom proposes that this period should end on 30 June 2019,” Mrs May said in the letter on Friday.

Mrs May said that if an agreement was reached before this date, then Britain proposed that the extension should be ended early.

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“The government will want to agree a timetable for ratification that allows the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union before 23 May 2019 and therefore cancel the European Parliament elections, but will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should this not prove possible,” she said.

In the letter to Mr Tusk, Mrs May said her discussions with British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were continuing, while she had also extended an open invitation to UK parliamentarians to work with her to achieve a consensus that respects the result of the 2016 referendum.

“I am clear that all of these discussions need to be based on acceptance of the Withdrawal Agreement without reopening it, as the United Kingdom agreed with the European Council at our last meeting, and should focus on the framework for the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union,” she wrote.

“If a consensus is going to be found, compromise will be needed on all sides, in the national interest. If the talks do not lead to a single unified approach soon, the Government would instead look to establish a consensus on a small number of clear options on the future relationship that could be put to the House in a series of votes to determine which course to pursue.”

Mrs May said that, having reluctantly sought an extension to the Article 50 period last month, her Government must now do so again.

Referring to the upcoming EU elections, Mrs May said: “It remains the Government’s view that, despite this request to extend the Article 50 period, it is in the interests of neither the United Kingdom as a departing Member State, nor the European Union as a whole, that the United Kingdom holds elections to the European Parliament.

“However, the United Kingdom accepts the European Council’s view that if the United Kingdom were still a Member State of the European Union on 23 May 2019, it would be under a legal obligation to hold the elections. The Government is therefore undertaking the lawful and responsible preparations for this contingency, including by making the Order that sets the date of the poll.”

Talks between Mrs May’s government and Labour continued on Friday. Speaking during a visit to south Wales to mark his party’s victory in the Newport West by-election, Mr Corbyn said: “There’s been no obvious move on the side of the government as of yet, we’re continuing those talks.”

He added: “We have to bring an end to this process so there is a degree of security and certainty to people all across Britain.”

Labour’s frustration with the progress of the talks was evident after an exchange of letters with the UK government on Friday.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “So far, the Government isn’t proposing any changes to the deal. In particular, it’s not countenancing any changes to the actual wording of the Political Declaration.

“Now obviously that’s disappointing; compromise requires change. We want the talks to continue and we’ve written in those terms to the Government, but we do need change if we’re going to compromise.”

British attorney general Geoffrey Cox told BBC that if the talks between UK’s Conservative and Labour parties fail, the delay is “likely to be a long one”.

Arch-Brexiteer and Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who leads the European Research Group (ERG), said Britain should be “as difficult as possible” in the event of a long extension and criticised French president Emmanuel Macron.

The BBC reported that Mr Tusk was proposing to make an offer of a 12-month “flexible” extension to the UK’s Brexit date, citing a senior European Union source.

The plan, which would let the UK leave sooner if the British parliament ratifies a deal, would need to be agreed by EU leaders next week at a summit, the BBC said.

In early reaction to the reported move, a source close to Mr Macron said France considers as premature talks of another Brexit extension.

The French diplomatic source slammed as “clumsy” comments by an EU official mentioning a “flexible extension” of the date of the country’s exit from the EU of up to one year.– Reuters and PA

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