Theresa May tells business chiefs she is confident of securing Brexit deal

A dog wears a banner during the'Wooferendum march in central London where dog owners and their pets gather to demand a new Bre

Meanwhile, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the UK's withdrawal agreement could still fail over the issue of the Irish border, leading to an "extremely serious" no-deal Brexit. "Where May certainly has to a certain extent a positive assessment of where we are, focused on the considerable progress that has been made on a number of issues, and emphasises that a deal is in reach, I think the collective feeling among the European Union 27, I would say, is somewhat more sceptical and notes the lack of progress or at least the lack of agreement at this stage".

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.

TRANSITION Such an extension would be hard for May to sell at home, where her overall strategy has been criticised by all sides - Brexit campaigners accuse her of making Britain a vassal state, European Union supporters say the offer is the worst of all worlds and others are increasingly frustrated over the talks.

Tajani said May said she would evaluate an idea to extend the post-Brexit transition period by a year from the current cut-off date at the end of 2020 but that the British prime minister did not say whether she would favour that, or not. It would give the North special status with no customs tariffs and also keep product standards there in line with those of the European Union single market.

"That's very much a decision for the British people and the British government", he said.

"The Prime Minister spoke for about 10 minutes and the tone of her message was quite optimistic", a source familiar with the content of the call told Reuters.

And the suggestion that Britain could stay firmly in the EU's sphere for longer than the 21 months expected has fired up those who already say Britain has already given up too much in the negotiations. Any deal that is struck will have to be approved by the British and European Parliaments.

Mrs May initially suggested an "implementation period" of around two years after Brexit, to give the UK's authorities and companies time to prepare for the new arrangements.




"The negotiations are very much about a solution and we have got to the point where they have become very technical but certainly it's something that is in the back of my mind as a potential outcome if we get this wrong", he said. The second element would include provisions for a UK-wide customs union.

Simon Collins, the Executive Officer of the Shetland Fishermen's Association, warned the Government it should not let fishermen down again - insisting the key issue between the fishing industry and the UK Government remains to be "trust" in Brexit talks.

- Would extending the transition period solve the deadlock?

'The position is exactly the same for our Prime Minister.

She also faces a rebellion from her parliamentary partners, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which has threatened to vote against her government's budget if she concedes to the EU's demands over the backstop.

"I think where there is a will, there is a way", German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reported to have said, while it is thought the President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, told leaders May needs "help" to sell a deal back in Blighty. They say the proposal would tear Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain.

"Unless domestic demand surprises to the upside, which seems unlikely, we still see downside export surprises as a key vulnerability for United Kingdom rates and GBP", they said.

But any extension will need to take into account concerns on both sides to avoid the transition ending with no deal. "If they knew the negotiations were being pushed right up against the next election, why would they be conciliatory in these negotiations?"

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