"Let’s dedramatize the Brexit situation. They need much more time. That is what the chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt, both members of the Brexit team for the EU have said yesterday. We need much more time. So let’s remain calm and continue to work. I know the date set for the agreement is March 29, 2019, but if more time is needed, let’s take it," Lamberts said.
According to media reports, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier in the day that a potential extension of a transition period for several months had been floated, but stressed that this was no more than an idea. Her comment came a day after reports of Barnier saying he was open to extending the transition period, originally expected to last through December 2020, by a year.
The issue is particularly sensitive regarding the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The so-called backstop, keeping the border on the island of Ireland frictionless, would apply if the soft border could not be ensured through a withdrawal agreement or a larger EU-UK trade deal. Both sides agreed in March that there needed to be a legally-binding solution to achieve this. However, the sides differ on what the solution should be.
The European Union has suggested keeping Northern Ireland as part of the customs union and, to a great extent, of a single market. May has objected to the proposal as it would create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. London has, instead, been proposing a customs arrangement between the United Kingdom and the European Union.