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UK open to extended transition period if EU drop backstop

Britain’s minister for Brexit says the country could accept an extension to the two-year transition period after it leaves the European Union in March if the bloc drops its controversial demands on the future situation of the Irish border.

“If we need a bridge from the end of the implementation period to the future relationship … I am open minded about using a short extension of the implementation period,” Dominic Raab said in an interview with the BBC on Sunday.

The comments came amid intensified talks between Britain and the EU to reach a final deal on Brexit, a key stumbling block in the negotiations.

The EU insists on having a backstop plan for the Irish border issue. The backstop will allow the EU to keep Northern Ireland in the bloc’s customs union for the transition period and beyond that.

It is meant to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the EU state Ireland and to prevent a return sectarian violence in the region. London has resisted the idea, saying it will effectively disintegrate the UK.

In a bid to overcome the deadlock, the EU has also suggested that the Brexit transition period could be extended, for at least a year, to allow the two sides reach a permanent solution on bilateral trade.

Raab said few months of extension would be possible if the EU compromised on the Irish backstop.

“It is an obvious possible route as long as it is short, perhaps a few months, and secondly that we know how we get out of it and obviously it has to solve the backstop issue so that that falls away then as a possibility,” said the minister.

EU and Britain have expressed hope they could settle differences on Brexit so that a deal could be clinched by November. Raab said the deadline was necessary to allow the UK parliament to approve the final Brexit deal.