Possible one-year extension to Brexit transition

Possible one-year extension to Brexit transition

Mr Coveney also said that EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has indicated that the EU is willing to allow more time to find a solution to the issue of the Irish backstop.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that she still believes it's possible to conclude a "good and sustainable" agreement with Britain before its departure - but stressed Germany also is preparing for the risk of a no-deal departure.

Leaders will decide at dinner after May has left them on Wednesday whether to firm up a tentative plan to hold a special Brexit summit in mid-November. "For a breakthrough we need new facts".

The diplomats said that Barnier had revealed his offer to European Union ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg on Wednesday.

With the offer on the table, Europe is seeking to put pressure on May to come to Brussels with ideas of her own.

She is playing the most complex game of three-dimensional chess as she conducts parallel negotiations with Brussels, her Cabinet, her own party and now the DUP.

The choreography of Wednesday's summit opening emphasises British isolation.

The PM will address the EU27 just ahead of their pre-summit dinner, with United Kingdom officials playing down the prospect for any new proposals or breakthroughs.

If there isn't going to be significant progress from the summit this week, then why is it important?

European Council president Donald Tusk at a media conference.

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EU Council President Donald Tusk has told May that "creative" thinking from Britain is required to avoid a hard border between EU member Ireland and the U.K's Northern Ireland, the issue that has brought divorce talks to a standstill.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire optimistically declared "we are not far from a deal" on the morning of the summit.

Back in Brussels, a stern Tusk said he had "no grounds for optimism" based on a report Tuesday from Barnier and May's appearance in parliament on Monday.

She received a chilly reception on Monday from many of her MPs as she updated them on the latest impasse in the talks and she will attempt to keep senior ministers on board at their weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

She said: "He asks me if the Chequers plan is dead, the answer is no".

Mrs May issued a plea for unity as she said she remained determined to secure a Brexit that would respect the result of the 2016 referendum, protect jobs and security and preserve the Union.

But her own Eurosceptic Conservative MPs are demanding this "backstop" arrangement be time-limited, something the European Union will not accept.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford later urged the Prime Minister to negotiate continued membership of the single market and customs union to "avoid an economic catastrophe".

Many suspect that will not be enough time, which has led the European Union to demand a "backstop" to ensure there are no customs posts or other controls along the now invisible border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland.

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