Brexit: EU ‘offers to extend transition period by one year’ as Theresa May fights to keep hopes of deal alive

Britain could stay in the customs union for an extra year as the EU has reportedly offered to extend the Brexit transition period.

According to the Financial Times, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier outlined his offer during a meeting with EU member states on Tuesday evening.

It would mean Britain would stay in the customs union and single market beyond December 2020 – the scheduled end of the 21-month transition period.

The reports come as Theresa May heads to Brussels to address EU leaders as she battles to keep her faltering hopes of securing a Brexit deal alive.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has reportedly said he is open to extending the Brexit transition period by a year (Getty)

The meeting has been billed as 'the moment of truth' in the negotiations amid growing concerns the two sides will be unable to bridge the gap over the key issue of the Irish border.

Mr Barnier is said to be offering the extension to the transition period in return for the Prime Minister accepting a 'two-tier' backstop to avoid a border with Northern Ireland.

The plan was informally proposed to the UK during talks last week, the newspaper said.

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A diplomat told the Financial Times: 'The extension is an example of how we could be flexible to help the British side if they want it.'

German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also reported that the European Commission had raised the possibility of extending the transitional period 'a goodwill gesture to Britain'.

Downing Street has previously refused to rule out prolonging the transition period as part of negotiations, although the move would infuriate Brexiteers who want a clean and swift break from the EU.

Mrs May is accused of pushing for a soft Brexit (Getty)

Mrs May's meeting with EU states today was supposed to give the green light for a special summit in November to finalise the terms of Britain's withdrawal.

But after hastily arranged talks between Mr Barnier and Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab broke up on Sunday without agreement, the negotiations are once again deadlocked.

European Council president Donald Tusk has warned that without new 'concrete proposals' from the British to break the logjam over the so-called Irish border 'backstop', further progress may be impossible.

However, with her party split – and some Tory MPs openly calling for her to go – Mrs May has little room to manoeuvre if she is to secure a deal which stands any chance of getting through Parliament.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab failed to reach an agreement during talks with Mr Barnier on Sunday (PA)

Ahead of her visit to Brussels, Mrs May was able to secure the tentative backing of her Cabinet amid reports that some Brexiteer ministers were prepared to quit if she gave too much ground to Brussels.

During a marathon three-hour meeting on Tuesday, she insisted she would not accept an agreement on the backstop – intended to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic – which undermined the integrity of the UK or tied it indefinitely to EU customs arrangements.

The Prime Minister will briefly address the leaders of the EU 27 on Wednesday evening before they discuss the state of play in the Brexit negotiations over a working dinner while she leaves.

Brexit supporters are urging the Prime Minister to drop her Chequers proposals (PA)

Her official spokesman said she would take the opportunity to set out the areas where progress had been achieved while stressing her commitment to finding an agreement.

The spokesman said: 'We want to secure a deal as quickly as possible. We think it is in the best interests of the UK and European Union to forge that deep future partnership.'

With hopes of a November summit fading, focus has turned to the next scheduled meeting of the European Council in December as the last chance to secure a deal and get it ratified by the UK and European parliaments before Britain leaves in March 2019.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo

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