Monday 20 May 2019

Mood is not optimistic in EU on Brexit, Hogan warns

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan made the claim. Picture: Fergal Phillips
EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan made the claim. Picture: Fergal Phillips

Shona Murray

Brexit talks will now go "down to the wire" in October, according to EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan.

Speaking to the Irish Independent as EU leaders gathered in Brussels last night, Mr Hogan said: "The mood is not optimistic in relation to reaching an agreement.

"We remain to be convinced that the UK is able to get unity amongst itself in order to remove many of the redlines that it has put in place in relation to reaching an agreement.

"Everybody is working hard to try to get to plan A and a deal," he said, before adding that unless the British stop interpreting the Brexit vote in an "extreme way", it won't happen.

Today's EU summit of all 28 member states was supposed to conclude with an agreement on how the UK would administer a backstop, which would apply if no withdrawal deal is agreed between Britain and the EU.

However, the UK has so far failed to deliver on its proposals.

Several weeks ago it offered a paper which Brussels and Dublin said was incomplete and silent on crucial matters regarding Britain remaining with in the single market in order to avoid Border checks on the island of Ireland.

The backstop was agreed last December between the EU and UK with Dublin's support.

But UK Prime Minister Theresa May reneged on the plan after Brussels said it would involve Northern Ireland remaining within the EU's regulations and customs union.

Although the Irish backstop is now no longer central to the agenda of this week's EU summit, Mr Hogan said it would be "counter-productive" for the Irish Government to try to stall negotiations, or 'veto' talks.

The October summit - the new deadline for the Irish backstop issue - is also the final deadline for the whole of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement to be completed.

There are concerns that such a high level of brinkmanship means Ireland will be left behind.

However, the sense among sources remains that rather than Irish priorities on the Border being left behind, the UK will in fact be left without a transition period.

The Withdrawal Agreement includes the 20-month period in which the UK will still have access to the EU's single market and trade deals. It is vital for British business to ready itself for the full effects of Brexit - the form of which is completely unknown.

Mr Hogan said "all sectors need to prepare for customs checks on behalf of the European Union". He said the Irish State would be obliged to collect tariffs on behalf on the EU for goods coming inside and outside a member state from a non-EU state.

Irish Independent

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