Irish Border Remains Thorny Issue in Brexit Talks Despite May's Attempts to Unlock it

Published May 30th, 2018 - 09:00 GMT
Theresa May's newest proposal about the resolving the Irish border and unlocking the Brexit talks has been dismissed by Brussels. (AFP/ File)
Theresa May's newest proposal about the resolving the Irish border and unlocking the Brexit talks has been dismissed by Brussels. (AFP/ File)

Brussels has dismissed Theresa May's latest proposal for resolving the Irish border and unlocking the Brexit talks before it has been formally presented, it was claimed today.

The Prime Minister has suggested using the so-called 'back stop' solution for Northern Ireland - which would involve the UK mirroring EU rules - from the end of transition but for a limited time only.

The idea is to allow Britain to eventually create rules and customs systems different from those imposed by Brussels but with enough time to implement them.

But the EU believes the idea would only postpone negotiations on a final settlement to maintain the open Irish border, Politico revealed today. 

EU officials think the backstop should be a permanent solution if it is implemented. 

The latest impasse comes just weeks before the next European Council in June, which is meant to demonstrate progress on a border solution.

EU officials are determined to only negotiate the substance of a UK-EU trade deal after a satisfactory position on Ireland is concluded.

An exit deal and political agreement on trade is due to be finalised by October.

But responding to reports of Mrs May's time-limited backstop, a senior EU official told Politico: 'It would be a very, very complicated thing to negotiate.

'I really don't see how you get there.' 

Government sources played down the latest row, pointing out the proposal has not been formally presented. 

On other issues in the negotiations, EU opposition has disappeared once a final proposal has been presented.  

Mrs May broadly secured backing from her Cabinet, senior Brexiteers and the DUP for the latest proposal following weeks of bitter wrangling - on the condition it was a short term fix.

Cruically the plan would mean keeping the UK aligned with customs tariffs rates in Brussels after the Brexit transition expires on December 31, 2020, if the final deal is not fully in place.  

Ministers remain split over which final plan for the Northern Ireland border to adopt.

Brexiteers including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson support the 'maximum facilitation' scheme – known as Max Fac – which would use trusted trader arrangements and technology like number plate recognition cameras to avoid the need for border checks

The Prime Minister supports a 'customs partnership' where the UK collects tariffs on behalf of the EU.

Brussels has already rejected both models as unworkable.  

The backstop was devised as an alternative to the European Commission proposal that Northern Ireland should remain in the customs union if no better resolution for the border issue can be found.

This Brussels backstop was roundly rejected by Mrs May as something no British PM could sign up to, as it effectively draws a customs border down the Irish Sea. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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