Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Britain, EU decide to take some time in getting Brexit right

Published:Thursday | October 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A demonstrator protests in front of Parliament in London, yesterday.


Leaders from the European Union and Britain shrugged off a weekend negotiating debacle and previous Brexit-related deadlines on Wednesday, giving themselves several more weeks to clinch a friendly divorce deal before their separation.

But British Prime Minister Theresa May's hotly anticipated speech to the 27 other EU leaders provided warm words but none of the substantial new proposals that European Council chief Donald Tusk had urged her to bring to the table,

The EU insisted for months that a summit this week was key to getting a deal on the terms of Britain's departure. After arriving for Wednesday's meeting in Brussels, chief negotiator Michel Barnier said, "We need much time, much more time, and we continue to work in the next weeks" with his British counterpart.

May also mentioned "working intensively over the next days and weeks" to achieve agreement that avoids a no-deal departure from the bloc on March 29 that could create chaos at the borders and in the economy. A deal must be sealed soon so that parliaments have time to give their verdict on it.

Underscoring the newfound sense of non-urgency, Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, even spoke of the "coming weeks and months" to get a deal and sought to impose a soothing calm.

"There's no need to dramatise matters. It's always the case with negotiations - that in the end, there are challenges," Kurz said.