Thursday, 18 April, 2019

EU's Barnier says 'yes', Irish border issue could sink Brexit deal

A dog wears a banner during the'Wooferendum march in central London where dog owners and their pets gather to demand a new Bre EU demands more Brexit progress despite British PM's plea
Leonard Rios | 20 October, 2018, 02:59

So would Tory Brexiters buy that if her preferred backstop - of a customs territory for the whole United Kingdom with Northern Ireland in a single market with de-dramatised checks - stays in place, without end date?

The DUP's deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, also heaped pressure on the under-fire prime minister with further criticism of the proposal to extend the transition period, stressing that it offers "nothing significant" on the backstop proposals.

"One that ensures we don't have any kind of a border and one that protects the peace process, however, we have to have that insurance policy, and Theresa May reaffirmed her commitment to it last night".

"We are working with European Union to deal with this issue of ensuring that if there is a gap between the end of the implementation period and the point when the future relationship comes in - and we don't expect a gap to exist - we want to ensure there's no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, " May said.

The diplomats said that Barnier had revealed his offer to European Union ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg on Wednesday.

And the suggestion that Britain could stay firmly in the EU's sphere for longer than the 21 months expected has fired up those who already say Britain has already given up too much in the negotiations.

May had earlier addressed her fellow leaders, indicating that she could accept extending the post-Brexit transition phase to take the heat out the deadlocked issue of the Irish border, officials said. But each has rejected the other side's solution.

This week's summit, which had been billed as a make-or-break moment, turned into a chance for both sides to give themselves more time - perhaps until the end of the year - to break the logjam.

"I think that could potentially play into the hands of hardline Brexiteers or people that would oppose a deal that Prime Minister May might put to parliament", he added.

Mrs May, who had been called upon to table new proposals on the Irish Border backstop, was thought to have been "developing her thinking".

"A further idea that has emerged, and it is an idea at this stage, is to create an option to extend the implementation period for a matter of months, and it would only be a matter months", she told reporters on the second day of an European Union summit.

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Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron even had time for a post-prandial stroll on an unseasonably warm Brussels evening, before hopping in a auto to the Grand Place's Le Roy d'Espagne bar to join the prime ministers of Belgium and Luxembourg for a beer. Plus, the more time businesses and government have to negotiate a new trade deal and adapt to a new legislative environment, the better.

"We are talking in a matter of months, we are not talking in a matter of years", he said.

Despite the lack of progress, the mood music at the summit was positive. A deal must be sealed soon so parliaments have time to give their verdict on it.

"There's no need to dramatize matters".

At dinner with European Union leaders on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar circulated a newspaper article on the Newry bombing.

"Northern Ireland voted Remain and there is also a majority support for the backstop".

Leo Varadkar reiterated Ireland's position on the backstop, which he said must be legally operable and would prevent a hard border emerging between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"I really need to say though that any extension to the transition period couldn't be a substitute to the backstop, it would still need to have that".

Britain says it has not asked for an extension - but didn't rule it out Wednesday.

The summit continues Thursday with an agenda limited to some issues both sides firmly agree on, including fighting cybercrime and dealing with an assertive Russian Federation.

From the moment the United Kingdom triggered Article 50, it had exactly two years to negotiate its exit from the EU. 'But only so many - and we have looked at all of them.

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