May to Warn EU against Wanting ‘the Unacceptable’ as Barnier Shifts Tone on Brexit Irish Border Issue
British Prime Minister Theresa May is going to warn the European Union not to “demand the unacceptable” in the bilateral negotiations on Brexit, and especially when it comes to the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
She is also expected to emphasize that “no other country” could accept the EU’s backstop plan if they were in the same situation, a statement already interpreted by some observers as a rejection of recent EU overtures.
The thorniest issue in the Brexit talks has been the Ireland – Northern Ireland border, and the EU demands for a “backstop” deal to prevent a hard border.
The UK has turned down EU suggestions that Northern Ireland should remain in the EU customs area, while the EU has argued alternative solutions put forth by London would not prevent a hard border.
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, however, has shifted his tone on the Irish border issue ahead of the Salzburg summit by saying that most checks could take place away from border areas.
“We are ready to improve this proposal,” Barnier is quoted as saying regarding the options for the 310-mile border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
On Tuesday, the EU negotiator also stated that the Brexit talks were in the “home straight”.
However, he also pointed out other significant areas of disagreement in addition to the Irish border issue: the role of the European Court of Justice in enforcing the withdrawal agreement; intellectual property issues, including geographical protections for food and drink.
“October is the key point in time – it is the moment of truth,” Barnier declared.
In spite of his shift in tone on the Irish border issue, however, the EU appearts to be still demanding its own “legally operationally backstop”.
That is defined as an insurance policy to prevent the return of physical infrastructure on the border in the event no other solution can be found.
“[The backstop should be a] set of technical checks and controls,” Barnier said on Tuesday, explaining those are meant to ensure the meeting of standards and payment of customs duties.
“Work on the EU side is ongoing. We are clarifying which goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK would need to be checked and where, when and by whom these checks could be performed. We can also clarify that most checks can take place away from the border at a company premises or at the markets,” the EU Brexit negotiator elaborated.
UK leader has vowed to make no compromises with her Brexit blueprint, the controversial White Paper also kown as the Chequers plan, regardless of the fact that it remains heavily criticized by the Brexiteers within her ruling Conservative Party, not to mention that some of its key provisions have been dismissed by the EU.
An EU – UK deal was supposed to be reached by the European Council summit on October 18, 2018, although Barnier expects the talks to drag into November; Brexit is set for March 29, 2019.
(Banner image: UK government)