Thursday 26 April 2018

Fears of 'Mexican stand-off' in Brexit talks

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes Photo: Tom Burke
Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Fears have been raised of a "Mexican stand-off" over Brexit talks if the EU doesn't become more flexible about moving on to the next phase of talks and Britain doesn’t improve its ‘divorce bill’ offer.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes has raised concern that the negotiations are "going no where" and warned that failure to make progress in the coming weeks would be "absolutely disastrous".

The remaining 27 member states are set to formally decide at their European Council meeting that the talks can't move on to trade and the UK’s future relationship with The EU.

December will become the new deadline for completing phase one of the talks which involve Irish issues, citizens’ rights and the so-called divorce bill the UK will have to pay to settle its EU commitments.

Mr Hayes said: " if we don't get a deal between now and December it would be an absolutely disastrous position for Europe, for Britain but especially for Ireland."

He believes action in two areas would lead to progress.

According to Mr Hayes Britain needs "to up their offer" in terms of the payments it has to make to the EU and Europe "needs to move on the question of Ireland and the border."

Mr Hayes said: "It is unrealistic to suggest that we can have a frictionless border while at the same time not having a discussion on the future relationship between Britain and the EU."

He said such discussions don't have to get into specifics but should encompass "general principals as to what way that new relationship will go."

The EU, including the Irish government has been strict on their insistence that talks won't move on to the next phase until they're satisfied with the outcome of the initial round of negotiations.

Mr Hayes warned that once this week's council meeting is over "we're into a new territory" that's "potentially a Mexican stand-off with no progress."

He said that a no deal scenario in Brexit would be a disaster for Ireland but also for the wider European economy and could damage the progress made to recover from the Eurozone crisis.

"We can't allow that to happen. It's too serious. So that's why I think flexibility has to be shown by all of the participants to the talks, EU and the UK.

"I think that kind of two-step approach is the way to proceed."

Taoiseach Leo Varadar last night told the Dáil that he will use today's European Council meeting to stress to other leaders the importance of the issues at stake for Ireland.

Mr Varadar said that while there has been positive deveopments in the Brexit process since Theresa May's Florence Speech it's evident "much more work needs to be done" on the issues prioritised in the first phase of negotiations.

He welcomed the progress on Ireland so far including the joint principle of continuing the Common Travel Area and undertakings to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

But he said it now seems unlikely the EU will be in a position to decide that that sufficient progress has been made in phase one.

Mr Varadkar said he spoke to Mrs May earlier this week about Irish concerns over trade and the border.

He said it's still possible the overall outcome of the negotiations is a trade and customs relationship so close to the status quo that a border problem can be avoided.

But he said it depends "very much" on the UK government and it will be necessary for the UK to commit to arrangements for Northern Ireland that reflect its unique circumstances and the need to avoid a customs border.

EU leaders will also discuss the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, the ambition of developing a Digital Single Market, and issues relating to Turkey, North Korea and Iran.

Online Editors

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business