Theresa May has hinted that the UK could extend the Brexit transition period to allow more time for trade talks, but she dismayed leaders at a crunch Brussels summit by failing to offer any new ideas to break the impasse over the Irish border.
In a development that immediately drew the wrath of Brexit supporters, EU officials said that the prime minister had suggested she was “ready to consider” a longer transition period in the hope of breaking open the deadlocked talks. Downing Street sources later said that such a move – during which the UK would abide by EU rules but have no say in them – had not been ruled out.
May’s concession on Wednesday came as she pleaded for “courage, trust and friendship” from both sides in her speech to EU leaders.
But despite EU council president Donald Tusk’s earlier demand for “new facts” to unlock the negotiations, the prime minister did not offer fresh proposals, instead highlighting the progress already made and the hurdles that remained.
“We have shown we can do difficult deals together constructively. I remain confident of a good outcome. The last stage will need courage, trust and leadership on both sides,” she told her EU counterparts.