Peter Altmaier, a key influence on Angela Merkel’s Brexit policy, claimed Theresa May will have to soften her red lines after agreeing to the extension. The German economy minister insisted he is now optimistic that a soft Brexit will be negotiated during the extra time. He said: “I think this was a watershed moment, and I think that in the UK they are starting to think in principle. This has challenged the British economy and this will certainly lead to discussions in the House of Commons in the coming days and weeks.
“The British government has so far set up so-called red lines. That means no customs union with the European Union, no further participation in the internal market.
“Now we realise that these red lines are being re-thought in the UK. And if, for example, Britain remains in the customs union, it would have a positive impact on people on both sides, protect jobs and prevent businesses from getting into trouble due to tariff increases and unregulated situations in the first few weeks.”
During the six-hour emergency summit this week, Germany pushed for a long Brexit delay that could have seen Britain remain an EU member until March 2020.
Mr Altmaier believes that Britain will once again extend its stay in the bloc before the next October 31 deadline.
He said: “The optimism comes from the fact that it was possible this week to build a very broad consensus in the European Union.
“We were finally decided on the extension until the end of October, and in good cooperation with the British government, to find this solution.
“This gives me the hope that we will be able to prevent an unregulated no deal in the future as well. That would be the situation where the negative effects would be greatest.”
The Government today confirmed that it has stopped operational planning for a no-deal Brexit.
The decision to end the preparations by the civil service was take at a meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Departments will make sensible decisions about the timing and pace at which some of this work is progressing given that the date we leave the EU has changed, but we will continue to make all necessary preparations.”
This comes as Mrs May continues to hold talks with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in a bid to end the Brexit deadlock.
“Both sides agreed to continue talks in an effort to make substantive progress towards finding a compromise plan,” a Labour spokesman said.