British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that she is not seeking a deal on her country’s withdrawal from the European Union at any cost, saying more time is needed to conclude the talks with Brussels on reaching a comprehensive Brexit agreement.
May’s spokesman said Tuesday that the premier had reiterated during a cabinet meeting earlier in the day that she still hoped to reach an imminent deal with the EU on how the future relations with the bloc would be after March 29, 2019, which is the official date for Britain’s departure from the EU.
The spokesman added, however, that reaching a divorce deal with the EU would “not be done at any cost,” meaning that there was still a huge chance Britain will simply crash out of the EU, a highly undesirable scenario which many believe would deeply hurt the two sides as many issues in trade, economy and security will be left unregulated.
Britain and the EU had expressed hope that their Brexit negotiators could finalize an agreement in the coming days so that the EU could call an extraordinary summit of leaders this month to ratify the deal.
However, May told her cabinet on Tuesday that more time was needed to settle differences on the key stumbling block in the negotiations, which is how the two sides will treat their only land border between Ireland, an EU state, and Northern Ireland, a UK province, after Brexit.
Britain has resisted EU’s backstop plan to include Northern Ireland in its customs union for the two-year post-Brexit transition period and beyond that until a permanent solution is agreed for trade. London has proposed the EU could include the entire UK in the customs union but insists any arrangement for the border should be time-limited.
“(May) said that while 95 percent of the withdrawal agreement had been concluded, on the Northern Ireland backstop there are a number of issues that we still need to work through and these are the most difficult,” May’s spokesman said.