May unveils backstop plan for the Irish border after Brexit

Jun 09, 2018, 20:50
May unveils backstop plan for the Irish border after Brexit

The government later published its proposal for a backstop plan to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, with an ambition for it to end by the time of the next general election.

The EU on Friday slammed a British "blame game" in Brexit negotiations and reacted cooly to Britain's latest offer to solve the Irish border problem.

But May's government has yet to set out to the EU's satisfaction how it would achieve that without erecting a land border to control goods between the British province of Northern Ireland and European Union member, the Republic of Ireland, which Britain has promised it will not do.

The prime minister has refused to guarantee her proposed Brexit "backstop" will end in December 2021, despite the date being stated as an expectation in a government negotiating paper. However, she agreed to the principle of this special "backstop" deal for Northern Ireland, insisting a better solution would be found once a broader EU-UK trade deal is done. The UK is now challenging a recommendation by the European Union's Anti-Fraud organisation (OLAF) to recover €1.9 billion in customs duties the UK failed to collect.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator was giving his first substantial reaction to the U.K.'s alternative "backstop" proposal to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland if negotiators fail to reach agreement.

A campaign for a another European Union referendum - this time on the final Brexit deal - has been launched in London.

"The time has come today to take decisions and make choices", Barnier said.

Keir Starmer has hit back at claims Labour will squander the chance to defeat the government over an amendment to keep the United Kingdom in a Norway-style deal after Brexit, saying his party was too divided to back it.

Several regions, including Ireland and the Flanders region of Belgium which depend heavily on exports to Britain, have in the past warned about the economic price of the country's departure from the EU.

Claiming there is "clearly a great deal of work" remaining to be done in Brexit negotiations, Mr Coveney said: "Our strong preference remains an overall EU-UK future relationship which would resolve all issues".

"I don't believe that we should get involved in any backstop proposals, but at least we can see the end of the tunnel", said David Jones, a Conservative former Brexit minister, expressing doubt over whether the European Union would accept the proposal.

On Thursday, Theresa May was forced to say she "expects" there to be a cut-off date after Brexit Secretary David Davis allegedly threatened to resign.

But Mr Barnier said: "Our backstop can't be extended to the whole UK. Why? The temporary back-stop is not in line with what we want or what Ireland and Northern Ireland want and need". He argued that such solution raises questions of an à la carte access to the single market, services, goods or people that is unacceptable to the EU.

"Of the eight demands made in FTA's list of essentials to "Keep Britain Trading" issued at the beginning of the year, not a single one has been progressed", he says.

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