Saturday 19 January 2019

No new ideas from UK as the Brexit impasse drags on

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. Photo: REUTERS
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. Photo: REUTERS

Shona Murray

The Brexit impasse is set to continue as the British government is not expected to table any more solutions ahead of this month's crunch summit.

Senior Brexit sources have told the Irish Independent they are bracing themselves for a highly charged fortnight as the clock ticks towards another spell of brinkmanship.

Next week sees the final round of negotiations for the EU-UK task forces in Brussels, where the UK was obliged to settle some of the questions raised by last week's proposals.

Brussels and Ireland said the offer from the UK - where Britain would stay in the customs union after the transition period to avoid some checks for a "time limited" arrangement - was inadequate.

It "raised more questions than answers" said EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

The backstop is the legally-binding provision designed to ensure no border is ever erected on the island of Ireland in the event that talks between the EU and UK on finding a better solution fail.

The document was also largely silent on the matter of regulatory alignment - the strict EU rules and standards that apply within the single market.


Unless Northern Ireland and the State are applying the same regulations on goods passing into each other's jurisdictions, a border will be necessary.

The summit on June 28-29 will be "very difficult - more from the UK's perspective than anyone else's" if they don't deliver something, said a well-placed source.

Meanwhile from Madrid, the Taoiseach warned the UK that "putting this off doesn't make it any easier".

Leo Varadkar also said "it's not the case where there is going to be some sort of compromise cobbled together late at night at the EU Council meeting in October".

The final deadline for all of the elements of the Withdrawal Agreement - the terms and conditions of the UK's departure from the EU after 45 years of membership - is the October EU summit. However, there is already talk of slippage on this date.

"The EU council meeting in October is not a negotiating meeting. The UK will not be there so any agreement will have to be concluded between the UK on the one hand, and the EU task force on the other.

"And I don't see any benefit for the United Kingdom in putting things off," said Mr Varadkar.

Earlier in the week, Tanáiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney told the Irish Independent there was "huge frustration" in Brussels over the lack of substance from Downing Street.

Irish Independent

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