Why Theresa May isn't ruling out another year of Brexit transition

British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier had suggested "more time in the transition period to agree an alternative solution to a backstop".

"Ninety percent of the accord on the table has been agreed with Britain", Barnier told France Inter radio.

"We are working to ensure that we have that future relationship in place by the end of December 2020", May said as she arrived at European Union headquarters in Brussels on Thursday for meetings on migration, security and other issues.

A United Kingdom source said the Prime Minister issued an appeal "to find a creative way out of this dilemma" on the Irish border and reiterated she was "fully committed to finding a legally operative backstop" that guarantees no hard border in Ireland.

The European Council president on Thursday said the EU had made a decision to continue the Brexit talks "in a positive spirit".

With just five months to go before Britain leaves the European Union, the Prime Minister is facing mounting pressure over the fact she has still yet to strike an exit deal, with the potential return of a hard border in Ireland forming the major stumbling block in negotiations.

But May was under attack from across Britain's political spectrum after saying she's considering a European Union proposal that would keep the United Kingdom bound to the bloc's rules for more than two years after it leaves on March 29.

As leaders from different political traditions in Britain we have disagreed about much in the past, but what we have in common- our support for democracy, the rule of law, free expression and free trade - are also fundamental European values and they are all worth defending.

"She said that her aim was to wrap this up in November", one of the business people listening to the call said.

"I am going to ask Prime Minister May whether she has concrete proposals on how to break the impasse", EU President Donald Tusk declared.

Mrs O'Neill said: "In order to preserve her toxic alliance with the DUP, she is trampling over the rights of citizens by acquiescing to that party's refusal to share power (at Stormont) on the basis of equality".

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"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 effect if we get this wrong", he said.

Downing Street said the call, which Mrs May will host from her constituency in Maidenhead, will focus on this week's European Council.

It emerged on Wednesday that Mr Barnier was ready to discuss a further year's extension to allow time to find a solution to keep the Irish border open.

The Prime Minister added: "We are not standing here proposing an extension to the implementation period".

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is throwing his weight behind the idea of extending a transition period as Britain leaves the bloc, calling it "a good idea".

"As long as we don't have a solution we won't be able to explain exactly how it can succeed", she said Thursday.

May spoke of "working intensively over the next days and weeks" to achieve agreement that avoids a no-deal departure from the bloc for Britain on March 29 that could create chaos at the borders and in the economy. "We know what they are trying to do, and that is to deliberately delay and sabotage any agreement in the hope of the European Union backing down at the 11th hour", Zimmer added.

Leaders, who made an effort to send positive messages on their way in, listened to May for about 15 minutes before having dinner without her.

The main disagreement between London and Brussels is over how to keep the Irish border open after Brexit, but May is also fighting with her own MPs, who must ultimately approve the final divorce deal.

With divorce talks stuck, the bloc has suggested extending that period, to give more time to strike a trade deal that ensures a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

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