Published: Tue, November 06, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

UK's PM May odds of Irish border deal "50-50"

UK's PM May odds of Irish border deal

"Choices have to be made on the British side to finalise this deal".

The prime minister discussed options with ministers that would ensure that the arrangement would be temporary after a number of Brexiters raised concerns that the backstop, used to avoid customs checks at the Northern Irish border, could tie it to the EU customs union in a betrayal of the Brexit vote.

Ireland is willing to examine ways in which a backstop to keep the Irish border open after Brexit could be reviewed so long as it does not permit Britain to unilaterally walk away from it, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had said on Monday.

ITV's political editor Robert Peston reports that a government official predicted the Prime Minister would be able to win over her cabinet this week, "but not without saying goodbye to some colleagues".

However, the bloc has rejected United Kingdom attempts to place a time limit on any backstop arrangement, while Brexiteers have been pushing for the United Kingdom to have the unilateral right to exit a backstop arrangement and force a "no-deal" departure from the EU.

They will need to work out the details of the backstop review mechanism by the end of the week if a deal is to be concluded this month.

He also shot down a suggestion by Brexit secretary Dominic Raab that any backstop should have a three-month time limit.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier stressed the United Kingdom would have to come up with a proposal that satisfied its 27 nations that its single market would not be undermined and that there was a guarantee of no hard border in Ireland.

"There can be no expiry date and there can be no unilateral exit clause, and if it were to be either of those things, the backstop would not be worth the paper it was written on", he said.

Mr Varadkar was accused by Sinn Fein of having "lost his nerve" in Brexit negotiations by signalling his willingness to reach a compromise solution with the UK.

Her optimism was immediately dampened by the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who said that a deal on the Irish border was not "close" and that a "real point of divergence" on the issue remains.

The European Commission Vice President warned: "Should we need to act, we would only do so to the extent necessary to address financial stability risks arising from an exit without a deal, under strict conditionality and with limited duration". Without an operational backstop there will not be an accord and there will not be a transition period.

He said: "This is demonstrated by the keen interest that European Union firms have shown in making sure they do not lose access to London in the event of a no-deal Brexit".

"Such an outcome will have serious consequences for the economy of the Republic".

Donaldson said that he could not understand why the Irish government "seems so intent on this course".

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