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The Latest: Labour rues lack of progress in Brexit talks
April 5, 2019
LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):
Labour Party officials say they are “disappointed” with the British government’s stance in delicate talks aimed at finding a Brexit compromise that both major parties could back.
The party said in a statement that “the government has not offered real change or compromise” in talks this week.
The negotiations started after Prime Minister Theresa May asked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to meet with her to seek a way forward.
In the statement, Labour calls on May “to come forward with genuine changes to her deal in an effort to find an alternative that can win support in Parliament and bring the country together.”
Labour seeks a softer Brexit that would keep Britain in a customs union with the European Union after it leaves the bloc.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says there’s widespread discontent across Europe over the way Britain’s exit from the European Union has progressed.
Speaking at the Group of Seven’s 2-day foreign ministerial in the French Atlantic resort of Dinard, Maas lamented: “I don’t think any of us is happy with how things unfolded over the last few weeks: The fact that we still don’t have a decision.”
He said, however, that the remaining 27 EU member states remain “in tune” over Brexit.
Maas said the EU needed further concrete guarantees that the European Parliament elections in May will “unfold in an orderly fashion” before it grants Britain a further extension to exiting the bloc.
He said: “For that, we need legal certainty. We can’t endanger the legitimacy of the EU election in any way.”
Many residents of the border town Newry in Northern Ireland say they oppose extending the Brexit process further, which is being sought by British leaders.
Brexit fatigue is setting in as frustration with Britain’s political stalemate mounts.
Mandy McClean, who tutors young people with special needs, says “I don’t think extending Brexit is going to make any difference, because they had several years to get to this stage, and they are not organized, no one knows what’s happening.”
The EU has said Britain must either leave on April 12 or propose an alternative plan. British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking to delay Brexit until June 30 to avoid the country’s crashing out of the bloc next week without a divorce deal.
Northern Ireland shop owner Liam Boyd says the Brexit delays don’t help anyone.
He says “the uncertainty is the worst ... that staggers business. You can’t make plans for the future, that’s hanging over us. So the sooner it’s resolved, the better for everybody.”
Eurotunnel, the company that manages the tunnel under the Channel, say it is prepared to cope with the extra checks that will be needed if Britain leaves the European Union next week without a withdrawal deal.
Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe said Friday that a new system for managing truck traffic is ready to be put in place if needed.
He says instead of driving straight through trucks will be stopped so that safety and security checks can be carried out and customs documents scanned.
The company says it has spent roughly 13 million pounds ($16.9 million) on new systems including a new freight control zone to keep the flow of traffic going.
At its peak, Eurotunnel transports approximately 7,000 trucks a day through the tunnel, which could be a major chokepoint for cross-border trade and travel in a no-deal scenario.
The Channel Tunnel opened in 1994 as a powerful symbol of continental cooperation.
Even in case of a no-deal Brexit, the European Union wants to grant fishermen a transition period to allow them to adjust to any sudden changes in fishing territories.
EU Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella said that any deal to grant U.K. vessels rights in EU waters would fully depend on reciprocity for EU fishermen.
Otherwise, he said, “we do have control mechanisms in place, which is working in all the areas where our vessels are fishing,” and would be able to spot U.K. vessels if no deal was found.
He said agreement to soften the impact of a no-deal Brexit for fishermen would only apply to “2019 because we will be looking for a longer term agreement” in a future EU-U.K. relationship.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said no one wants a lengthy delay to his country’s departure from the European Union and that Prime Minister Theresa May is “leaving no stone unturned” to break the Brexit impasse.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Group of Seven foreign ministers’ meeting in the French Atlantic resort of Dinard, Hunt said a drawn-out exit would be “a bad outcome all round” for Britain and the EU.
He said: “I don’t think the EU member states want a long extension. We certainly don’t want a long extension.”
While acknowledging road blocks in the process, Hunt said “Britain is not dragging its feet” and that the impasse over the past few months was a function of the fact that no party has a majority in Parliament.
May is seeking to delay Brexit until June 30 to avoid the country’s crash-out next week. Some in the EU want a longer extension.
The German government is welcoming Britain’s acknowledgement that a longer delay to Brexit would require the U.K. to participate in European Parliament elections.
British Prime Minister Theresa May sought Friday to delay Brexit until June 30 to avoid Britain crashing out without a deal in one week’s time. European Council President Donald Tusk has suggested a longer, flexible one-year extension.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, wouldn’t comment on her government’s position on those proposals. But he said it is “important” May “recognizes that, with such an extension to June 30 ... Britain must make preparations to participate in the European election” in May.
The EU has said Britain must either leave on April 12 or propose an alternative plan.
Outspoken Brexit advocate Jacob Rees-Mogg is suggesting that a long delay to Britain’s departure from the European Union would give Britain plenty of time to cause trouble for fellow EU members.
In a tweet, Rees-Mogg said “if a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU, we should be as difficult as possible.”
The Conservative Party lawmaker suggests using Britain’s positon to veto any EU budget increases, block the establishment of an EU army, and make it impossible for French President Emmanuel Macron to push further EU integration.
He tweeted after an EU leader suggested a long Brexit delay may be the best course.
Brexit backer Nigel Farage also said he would campaign in European Parliament elections set for late May if Britain takes part, as he expects will happen.
European Council President Donald Tusk has urged European Union member states to offer the U.K. a flexible extension of up to a year to make sure the nation doesn’t crash out of the bloc in a chaotic and costly way.
Two EU officials, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose information before it was made public, said that Tusk wants a one-year “Flextension” and get it approved at next Wednesday’s EU summit.
Such a move would mean that the U.K. needs to take part in the May 23-26 European elections, something which British Prime Minister Theresa May has long argued against.
May asked Tusk for a short extension until June 30 earlier Friday. Britain is currently scheduled to leave the EU on April 12.
--By Raf Casert in Brussels
Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain will make contingency plans to take part in European Parliament elections in May if no Brexit deal is reached in the interim.
She said in her letter Friday to the EU that she is making these preparations even though she believes it’s not in Britain’s interest or the European Union’s interest for Britain to take part in the elections because it is a departing member state.
May says she “accepts” the EU position that if Britain hasn’t left the 28-nation bloc by May 23, it will have a legal obligation to take part in the elections.
The prime minister says she is still hopeful of reaching a compromise agreement that could take Britain out of the EU before that time.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is requesting that the deadline for her country to leave the European Union be extended until June 30.
In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk Friday, May said that “the United Kingdom proposes that this period should end on 30 June, 2019.”
EU leaders agreed late last month to prolong the Brexit date from March 29 until April 12, unless May could push their mutually agreed divorce deal through Parliament.
The Europeans would prefer that Britain don’t take part in the May 23-26 EU elections if it is going to leave. April 12 is the last day for Britain to signal whether it will field candidates.
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