UK, EU with No Deal in Sight on Irish Border Issue, Brexit Secretary Admits

UK, EU with No Deal in Sight on Irish Border Issue, Brexit Secretary Admits

The UK and the EU have not come closer to an agreement on the issue of the post-Brexit Irish border, Britain’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has admitted.

The thorniest issue in the Brexit talks remains the Ireland – Northern Ireland border, and the question of a “backstop” deal to prevent a hard border.

The Irish government has said a withdrawal agreement without a border backstop would “be of no use”, thus practically threatening a no-deal. The European Parliament has explicitly threatened to veto a Brexit deal over the issue.

The UK has turned down EU suggestions that Northern Ireland should remain in the EU customs area, while the EU itself has made it clear that alternative solutions put forth by London would not prevent a hard border.

“I don’t have the solution to give you yet,” the UK’s Brexit Secretary told a House of Lords Committee on Wednesday, as cited by the BBC.

Raab admitted that there has been little recent progress during the Brexit talks on the issue of the Irish border.

At the same time, he said that “detailed” and “interesting” work on the post-Brexit Irish border was continuing.

“We’re not going to see a customs border drawn down the Irish Sea. We’re not going to do anything which would imperil the Belfast Agreement. The prime minister has been clear that the EU proposals were unacceptable,” Raab stated.

“Michel Barnier has also confirmed he is open to new solutions on the backstop and he has said the backstop we eventually agree on is not necessarily going to be the one the Commission came up with,” he elaborated.

Raab denied reports that the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier had turned down UK requests for extended meetings in Brussels. The Guardian had reported that Raab had been frustrated by Barnier’s alleged failure to make himself available for talks. There have also been concerned reports that the UK and the EU had held no actual negotiation meetings for a week.

However, the British Brexit Secretary told a Lords Committee he had a “good professional and personal rapport” with his EU counterpart, would be holding a “long” meeting with him on Friday.

On Britain’s EUR 44 billion (GBP 39 billion) Brexit “divorce bill”, Raab said a no-deal scenario could affect its payment to the EU.

“I don’t think it could be safely assumed on anyone’s side that the financial settlement as has been agreed by the withdrawal agreement would then just be paid in precisely the same shape or speed or rate if there was no deal,” he stated.

Raab reiterated his previous statements that work on the EU – UK Brexit deal was 80% complete. Barnier has said the same but did so back at the beginning of July, an indicator that little progress has been made on the thorniest issues in the two months since.

“I’m confident that a deal is within our sights. We’re bringing ambition, pragmatism, energy and if, and I expect it will be, and if it is matched, we get a deal,” the Brexit Secretary told the Lords EU Committee.

Meanwhile, UK Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, second-in-command to Prime Minister Theresa May, urged the EU to take May’s deal plan, or face the prospect of hard Brexit.

(Banner image: Dominic Raab on Twitter)

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