Britain's May says divorce deal with European Union nearly done

24 October, 2018, 05:57 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • Dominic Raab says he is open-minded about a short extension to transition period

Theresa May says only 5% of the withdrawal agreement is left to negotiate with Brussels.

However, during her address Mrs May said: "We would not accept a position in which the United Kingdom, having negotiated in good faith an agreement which prevents a hard Border in Northern Ireland, nonetheless finds itself locked into an alternative, inferior arrangement against our will".

SNP leader in the Commons Ian Blackford said the prime minister was "humiliated and hamstrung by the extreme Brexiteers in her own party", who were "holding the United Kingdom to ransom (and) leading us all to the brink of a catastrophic no deal".

Today that remark was condemned by all sides.

But May's attempt to unlock the talks by considering an extension to a status-quo transition period beyond the current proposed end date of December 2020 has further riled both pro- and anti-EU factions in her deeply split Conservative Party.

The EU proposed that Northern Ireland should in effect stay in the single market and the customs union as the United Kingdom withdrew at the end of the 21-month transition period, unless there was some great trade deal or bespoke solution that could ensure there was no need for border checks.

But May said the backstop and implementation period extension were just "insurance policies" and she did not believe either would be needed, because the country's future relationship with the European Union would be settled by then.

"However, May insisted that the EU's position had shifted and that they were now" actively working" with the United Kingdom to find a compromise.


One of the signatories warned of a brain drain of the UK's top scientific talent if the country leaves the European Union while severing as many ties as possible with the bloc in a so-called hard Brexit.

At a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in London on Monday, ministers were warned that failing to resolve the Irish border question could lead to a return of violence.

But it also appears that, in order to maintain Northern Ireland's untrammelled access to the United Kingdom market, Downing Street might dispense with checks going from west to east across the Irish Sea, albeit they would be in force on goods going the other way.

In terms of the single market, Downing Street appears to accept that Northern Ireland might stay under European Union regulations as Great Britain diverges.

No 10 sources said her diary would be set out on Monday. But she warned "we can not accept any proposal that threatens the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom".

"And all of this from the last three weeks alone, is in addition to the agreements we had already reached", she will say.

Since then, Mrs May's proposal to extend the transition period has done little to calm anger among eurosceptics in the governing Conservative Party, who fear she is leading Britain into a deal that will make Britain a "vassal state" - unable ever to leave the EU.

According to people familiar with the matter, seven senior pro-Brexit ministers spoke out against a proposal that could allow the United Kingdom to stay inside the European Union's tariff regime indefinitely. The original knot is vanishing before our eyes.

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