Britain open to longer Brexit transition but sees no need for it: May

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – London is willing to discuss an extension of the transition period after Britain leaves the European Union, without ever planning to use it, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday at a summit of EU leaders.

“I’m clear that I expect the implementation period to end at the end of December 2020,” May said, referring to the time after Britain’s departure to allow business to adapt to being outside the bloc.

“The point is that this would not have to be used,” May said of the transition period idea until the of 2021.

At a dinner on Wednesday evening, May assured EU leaders in Brussels that she can still reach a Brexit deal, avoiding a showdown over stalled talks as Brussels stepped up planning for a failure of negotiations.

May said she was working with the European Union to ensure there was no hard border on the island of Ireland.

“If there is a gap between the end of the implementation period and the point at which the future relationship comes in – we don’t expect a gap to exist, but if there is, we want to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland,” she told reporters.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel)

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media as she arrives at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman