British Prime Minister Theresa May will address European Union counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday but there is little hope on either side of a quick breakthrough after Brexit talks stalled at the weekend.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed a hardening tone among the 27 other governments, whose leaders will gather over dinner after a presentation by May to discuss stepping up preparations for Britain dropping out of the EU with no deal in March.
All member states, she said before flying to the summit, must prepare for all outcomes: “That includes the possibility that Britain leaves the European Union without a deal.”
With wrangling over how to keep Northern Ireland’s land border with the EU open after Britain leaves the EU’s customs and regulatory space, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said it was unlikely the 27 leaders would set a date for a special summit to seal a deal – as was the hope before talks stalled.
Summit chair Donald Tusk called on May to come to Brussels with “creative” new ideas to unblock the process, but British officials have given little indication she has much new to say as she battles deep opposition among her own allies to the kind of agreement which Brussels says is pretty much its final offer.
May told parliament in London she wanted any treaty that includes the Irish border issue linked to a separate declaration the two sides intend to issue on their intentions for a close EU-UK trade pact to be negotiated after Brexit.
EU negotiators agree that a close customs and regulatory relationship could avert the kind of border disruption that could revive sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland, but they still want a “backstop” guarantee that if that is not in place, then the EU would keep the province in a special economic zone.
May and her Northern Irish allies reject that as posing a risk of breaking up the United Kingdom.
EU diplomats told Reuters on Monday that EU negotiator Michel Barnier offered to help defuse the issue by extending a status-quo transition period for Britain by an extra year to the end of 2021 to give time for a trade deal that would avert the need to trigger a backstop for Northern Ireland.
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, whose chamber needs to see a treaty this year to have time to ratify it by March, told reporters that he would support Barnier’s proposal to lengthen the transition period to three years from two.
Many continental officials involved in the process have long said a longer transition may be needed to conclude a free trade deal anyway. However, May is also under pressure from Brexit supporters to cut ties to the bloc as soon as possible.
May is due to address her peers at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT). There is unlikely to be much dialogue around the table, with EU leaders insisting London negotiate exclusively through Barnier.
The 27 will move to a dinner without May to hear reports from Barnier and from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. He will brief them on how the EU executive is stepping up planning and guidance for governments on what must be done to cope with Britain leaving on March 29 with no treaty in place.
Both sides are coming under pressure from business to reach agreement soon to avoid firms running up needless costs.
A joint pre-summit plea from the European auto and car parts sector warned disruption to cross-Channel supply chains would be “catastrophic” and wipe out much of a quarter-century of recovery in England’s car industry.
May will rejoin her counterparts for a regular EU summit on Thursday, to be followed in the evening and on Friday by a summit with Asian leaders, including China’s Premier Li Keqiang and the prime ministers of Japan, South Korea and Russia.
1 Trillion Euros: EU Leaders Get Into Big Fight Over Budget
Budget arguments in any parliament are usually laced with strong points of view, and they include compromise and reversals. It is not any different in the European Union where leaders argued vehemently through Thursday night on how one trillion euros would be spent in the next seven years. This budget discussion is the first to take place since Britain pulled out of the bloc last month.
So far, the discussions have been harsh, long and have led nowhere. There were clear divisions between rich and poor members, while leaders from the bloc’s 27 countries met in Brussels on Thursday to argue over EU’s future and how they would pay for its ambitious programs.
Each leader promoted his country’s interests during a round-table meeting where each nation laid out its grievances and demands.
This budget didn’t just surface. It is the result of years of efforts by diplomats and numbers experts. But they seem not to have satisfied different interests.
Some experts fear the leaders’ summit might last into Saturday and still end inconclusively.
Man Arrested After London Mosque Stabbing
A suspect has been arrest in a London mosque Thursday stabbing incident. Police say the incident is not being treated as terrorism, but Scotland Yard has launched an investigation into the attempted murder of an elderly man that was stabbed several times during afternoon prayers at London’s regent’s park mosque. Fellow worshipers were said to have wrestled the alleged attacker to the ground. The man had stabbed in the neck the mosque’s cleric who calls others to prayer.
The suspect has been described as a twenty-nine-year-old man who was described by an eyewitness as a regular at the mosque.
The stabbing victim, Raafat Maglad, is said to be about seventy years old and has been at the mosque for 25 years. Paramedics treated him at the scene and then rushed him to the hospital for further treatment.
Maglad was said to be seriously injured, but the mosque said his condition was not life-threatening.
Coronavirus: Ukraine Protesters Attack Buses Carrying China Evacuees
Dozens of protesters in a Ukrainian town on Thursday hurled stones and attacked buses carrying more than 70 evacuees from coronavirus-hit China.
Protesters clashed with police over the evacuees who were brought to a hospital in Novi Sanzhary, in the central Poltava region, where they will be held in quarantine for 14 days. The masked evacuees were peeking through bus windows as they drove slowly under a heavy police escort.
The residents put up road blocks and burned tyres to cut off road to a sanitarium intended to host the evacuees, fearing they could become infected.
Regional police said in a statement that nine police officers and one civilian were hospitalized.
The country’s health minister pledged to share evacuees’ quarantine for two weeks in a bid to reassure protesters who fear they could be infected.
The country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky has called for local residents to show support for the evacuees and said his government would do “everything possible” to make sure the virus does not get to Ukraine.
Ukraine has no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, which originated last year in China’s Hubei province.
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