NI 'disagreement' must not lead to no deal Brexit - May

Danny Woods
October 16, 2018

Britain's Brexit pointman Dominic Raab made an unannounced trip to the European Union capital for talks with his opposite number Michel Barnier, briefly raising hopes that a deal might be in the offing.

"If the European Union doesn't match the ambition and pragmatism we've showed, we have the plans in place to avoid, mitigate or manage the risk of no deal - and make a success of Brexit", he said, as the government released the last 29 of 104 technical papers on preparations for a no-deal.

"And delivering this is vital for our security too because economic relations sit at the heart of all our partnerships including the vital security alliances we have with our friends in Europe".

Insisting she had no choice but to torpedo the draft deal last night after Brussels tried to create a "backstop to the backstop", Mrs May told MPs: 'I could never accept that.

Despite apparent technical agreement between officials on both sides after intensive work at the weekend, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab rejected the compromise plan after travelling to Brussels for a meeting with Michel Barnier that had been expected by some to seal the deal.

The EU's version of the backstop, which would see just Northern Ireland remain aligned with Brussels' rules, has been called unacceptable by Mrs May and is despised by the DUP.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the DUP's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said: "One part of the United Kingdom can not be left behind, bound to rules set in Brussels".

Economists are viewing a no-deal Brexit as becoming increasingly likely and have released several ultra-gloomy forecasts.

Even if she reaches a withdrawal agreement, she will struggle to get it through parliament and may find opposition from the small Northern Irish party which props up here minority government to other legislation such as the budget.

Neither London, Dublin nor Brussels wants to see checks imposed on the border between the UK's Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic - but the problem persists of finding a way to square that aim with May's desire to leave the European single market and the customs union.

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EU Council president and summit host Donald Tusk searched for a positive outlook.

Up until now, the Prime Minister has repeatedly warned that a failure to back her Brexit strategy would result in a disorderly withdrawal from the bloc.

In an effort to find a way to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit reports have suggested the United Kingdom could remain tied to Brussels' rules beyond the end of 2020 to give negotiators more time to finalise a trade deal.

"As a unionist party, we will not give our support to any deal that includes such economically and constitutionally damaging arrangements", he said, warning that the party would hold firm even if the government tries to "bribe, bully or browbeat us".

Talks will take place on Monday between DUP leader Arlene Foster and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, while Mrs May will meet Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald in Westminster.

He says the need "to avoid a hard border" between Ireland and the U.K's Northern Ireland is among the unsettled issues.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC television that any customs backstop would be "time limited", but did not say whether an expiry date would be written into the deal. This is to give parliaments in London and Brussels time to approve a deal before Britain otherwise crashes out of the European Union next March, plunging businesses and millions of ordinary citizens into a chaotic and costly legal limbo.

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a fight on two fronts this week, battling to convince her own ministers and then Brussels as the Brexit talks come to a head.

"Whether we do (it) this week or not, who knows?"

"It is time to scrap the backstop, and simply agree what is manifestly the case - that no one wants any new physical checks at the northern Irish border, and nor is there any need for them".

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