Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

EU's Michel Barnier rejects Theresa May's backstop proposal for Northern Ireland

EU's Michel Barnier rejects Theresa May's backstop proposal for Northern Ireland

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier has said Prime Minister Theresa May's proposals for a backstop customs arrangement in Northern Ireland raise a series of "difficult" questions.

On Thursday, Brexit Secretary David Davis fought the prime minister for clarification of the time-limited nature of the backstop proposal before its publication, which prompted speculation as to whether he could quit the government over the issue.

"The UK expects the future arrangement to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest".

"That is positive and a step forward".

"The business representatives expressed their support for this approach, which will build on information provided through the prime minister's various speeches", Downing Street said in a statement. Northern Ireland would form part of our customs territory.

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He added: 'The other point of disagreement is how temporary the backstop would be - backstop means backstop'. The focus must now be on getting a new trade deal.

Britain agreed that in the absence of any other solution, Northern Ireland would remain in "full alignment" with the EU's single market and customs union but the deal was pulled at the 11th-hour after DUP resistance.

The backstop solution at the heart of the Brexit talks is due to snap into place to avoid a hard Irish border should an adequate free trade deal or technological answer not be in place by the end of the transition period at the end of 2020.

'We have two working weeks left before the European Council at the end of June'.

But Mrs May maintained it was right to have a fallback option ready in case the process was delayed "for technical reasons".

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Under the plan, the United Kingdom would stay aligned to EU customs union if plans to ensure the Irish border remains soft are not ready by the end of the transition period.

"The only deadline that should be in the backstop is the all-weather or if and when deadline".

Worldwide trade minister Liam Fox also discussed foreign investment into Britain with business leaders. None of the three Cabinet ministers threatened to resign during their meetings with the PM, Mrs May's spokeswoman said.

"A backstop that is temporary is not a backstop, unless the definitive arrangement is the same as the backstop", he said.

Labour's pro-Remain MP Ian Murray, a supporter of the People's Vote campaign for another European Union referendum on the final Brexit deal, claimed Mr Barnier's stance showed Mrs May's "flimsy Brexit proposal has lasted less than 24 hours".

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"How does that fit with the need to secure the absence of a hard border in all circumstances?"

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