16:26 GMT27 February 2021
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    British Prime Minister May tried to pressure the EU to be more flexible around the talks, noting that extending or delaying Brexit negotiations is not an option.

    Theresa May’s comments came in the middle of the talks held in Salzburg, she told the EU leaders that Britain won’t seek to delay Brexit even though two sides still cannot agree on matters of trade and the regulation of the Irish border despite months of negotiations.

    “The UK will leave on 29 March next year,” said May, noting “the onus is now on all of us to get this deal done.” She also noted that “time is short but extending or delaying these negotiations is not an option,” addressing all 27 EU countries leaders’ instead of the EU Chief Negotiator Michael Barnier.

    However, at the beginning of the EU summit, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that a deal remained “far away”, as European Council President Donald Tusk said that Northern Ireland's borders and UK-EU trade relations still have to be “reworked and further negotiated.” He also noted that “various scenarios are still possible,” including a no-deal scenario.

    READ MORE: Analyst on Brexit: 'There May Be a Deal, But Heaven Know What It Will Look Like'

    May also rejected Barnier’s proposals during the summit for a revised Irish border, as the EU is still insisting on customs checks in the Irish Sea. “The idea that I should assent to the legal separation of the United Kingdom into two customs territories is not credible,” outlined May.

    Although most of the UK's renewed Chequers proposals, like a common rule book and a complicated customs arrangement, were still rejected, the countries with the closest trade ties called for the EU to close the gap with the UK rather than insisting on a Canada-style free trade agreement. Countries including Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark claimed the UK has “evolved” its position with Tusk, confirming that the plan had undergone “positive evolution”.

    Another obstacle May is facing is that the deal should be signed off by the parliament, providing “a meaningful final vote” before the government can implement the legislation. It needs to be done in time before the UK leaves the EU on March 29, 2019, under two years of discussions with European negotiators. 

    That may be more complicated than it seems, as the former leading UK Brexit negotiator David Davis released some of the remarks from the speech he is going to give in Munich on Thursday, including remarks that the UK Prime Minister’s plan is unpopular in Britain and does not represent what Britons had voted for in the 2016 referendum.

    Davis argued in these remarks that May had previously promised to “return control over our law, our money, and our borders. These promises were in [the Conservative] manifesto too. But the Chequers plan crosses on all of those red lines. The EU is often correctly described as having a democratic deficit. But Chequers is devoid of democracy altogether.”

    The talks in Salzburg will continue on Thursday. According to the Guardian's sources, Barnier still holds onto the presumption that customs checkpoints on the Irish border are necessary for the future agreement, describing them as “a set of technical checks and controls” which should be introduced with respect for the UK's territorial integrity. He particularly insisted on controlling the cross-border transit of animal and food products, which would always require physical checks at the border.


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    Brexit plan, Chequers, Brexit negotiations, Brexit, Brexit, EU, David Davis, Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, Theresa May, Salzburg, United Kingdom
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