Wednesday, 18 September, 2019

Brexit standoff continues before European Union summit

Barcroft Media via Getty Images Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Patty Aguilar | 17 October, 2018, 11:59

Barnier met his British opposite number Dominic Raab in Brussels on Sunday, but they failed to agree a draft Brexit divorce arrangement before European Union leaders arrive in the city on Wednesday. Neither side has set out new proposals ahead of the summit on how to maintain the status quo along the Irish land border without introducing new checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea. "She said she is committed to securing a Brexit that delivers on the referendum result, safeguards jobs and security, and which preserves our union", her spokesman told reporters.

Prime Minister Theresa May is being urged to consider the extension of the transition period to get through the Brexit impasse, the newspaper report added.

"Even with the progress we have made, the European Union still requires a "backstop to the backstop", effectively an insurance policy for the insurance policy", the prime minister said.

Asked whether any minister indicated they might be considering resigning, he replied: "They did not".

The mood among pro-Brexit Conservative was summed up by Simon Clark, who told the prime minister directly that she had as "failed to reassure" MPs that the United Kingdom will definitely leave the customs union by December 2020, amid fears that the United Kingdom could be wedded to the EU's customs arrangements for years and years to come.

The EU has stuck to its position - a backstop to prevent a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland can not be time-limited and can not include the whole of the United Kingdom remaining in the customs union.

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Her official spokesman later told reporters: "The Cabinet strongly supported her on the importance of maintaining the integrity of the Union and agreed that we must ensure we can not be kept in a backstop arrangement indefinitely".

But two of those present at the "pizza summit" in the office of Andrea Leadsom played down suggestions of rebellion against the Prime Minister. "This is going to be a hard time, but the whole Cabinet is digging in to get the best deal for this country".

The attendees were Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, and perhaps most worrying for the prime minister, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. The EU said the process was expected to take a few more weeks, pushing the timeline for a deal into November at the earliest.

Theresa May faces a Brexit showdown with restless Cabinet ministers on Tuesday morning.

As the Financial Times says, there have been attempts by Michel Barnier to find a device to provide comfort to Theresa May that the Northern Ireland backstop she hates would never be implemented.

Germany's Europe minister called on May to "take responsibility and be constructive". But Tusk said they would need to believe that a deal was almost done - and without some new move from May in Brussels, that belief seems unlikely to come this week. "Without a clear vote in the European Parliament and without a clear vote in the British Parliament, it won't succeed in the end".

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