Monday, 28 May, 2018

UK Risks Crashing Out of EU Without Deal, Irish Premier Says

Theresa May Theresa May. REUTERS Dylan Martinez
Jay Anderson | 18 May, 2018, 16:07

The British government is considering staying aligned to the EU's customs union for years after a post-Brexit transition period if it can not resolve the Irish border issue, newspaper reports said Thursday.

May has insisted the United Kingdom will be leaving the EU customs union after Brexit and has rejected the EU's suggestion that Northern Ireland remain inside the bloc in order to maintain trade flows with the Irish Republic to the south. EU officials had previously expressed skepticism about the government's latest ideas.

May said three of her objectives - to forge an independent trade policy; a frictionless trade with the European Union and avoid disruption between Ireland and Northern Ireland - were not easy to achieve but maintained that only her government will fulfil the expectations of the pro-leave voters of the 2016 referendum.

"The leaders discussed the positive progress which had been made in the talks so far", a spokeswoman for May said in London.

But former cabinet minister Damian Green, who backed Remain in the referendum, said he was ready to accept a "small delay" to Brexit to ensure customs arrangements work effectively.

But Tory MP Marcus Fysh shut down the Remainer claim and said the whole Irish border issue has been "blown out of proportion".

The bottom-line is that if negotiations were not to be concluded, which seems likely, the British prime minister wants to have in place a regime that will allow Ireland to retain an open border.




He said the SDLP was committed to "delivering a new inclusive Ireland" but unionism needed to be persuaded about the benefits of Irish unity.

It would also be easier for London to sign up to the "backstop", since it would not necessarily lead to any customs requirement on goods going to and from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.

Mrs May's Brexit "war cabinet" met again on Tuesday without reaching agreement on which of the two options for customs arrangements on the Irish border - the "customs partnership" and "maximum facilitation" models - it will back.

Ministers are divided and any option would take time to implement.

"Fixing lots of reciprocal arrangements would put some welly behind the government's claims to want a very close continuing relationship with European Union members after Brexit, and it would be welcomed by the university sector as better than some alternatives", he said.

But the paper could be largely ignored at the summit unless the Irish question was solved to the satisfaction of Dublin and Brussels.

According to No 10, David Davis told the Cabinet at its weekly meeting that the white paper would be the Government's most significant publication on the European Union since the referendum two years ago.

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