Agreeing backstop deal a matter of trust, says Varadkar

Minnie Murray
October 19, 2018

Mr Hunt told Today the transition was not the main issue that needed to be resolved, which remained the so-called Northern Ireland "backstop" meant to ensure there was no return of a "hard border" with the Republic. The backstop covers regulatory alignment as well, particularly regarding the free movement of goods.

"Theresa May is showing nothing but disdain for the people of the north, for the Good Friday Agreement, for our economy and rights and for the peace process".

But it has hit a wall of objection from radical Brexiteers and the Democratic Unionist Party, propping up Mrs May's minority government.

The EU is also insisting on its own "backstop", which would see Northern Ireland alone stay aligned with the bloc's customs union and single market - something Britain will not accept.

A effect of this would be additional checks and controls on the movement of goods into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

"Are you really telling me standing firm on the integrity of the United Kingdom is a really fearless thing for the British Government to do?"

Mrs May stressed this would only be for "a matter of months" and is devised to help break the deadlock over agreeing a backstop solution for the Irish border issue.

What is the transition period and what's being suggested?

'This is pretty much it, ' an European Union diplomat said of the weekend offer, which included a longer transition to give time for a customs deal.

Barnier revealed on Friday morning that the Withdrawal Agreement is now 90% complete as the result of intensive negotiations with the United Kingdom last week - an increase of 5% on the previous week. With more than 18 months having passed since Article 50 was triggered, the talks have taken much longer than expected.

"We need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks", EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. They are also unlikely to start in earnest immediately after March 29 2019.

Tajani said May had offered nothing new, though he thought her "body language" was positive.

Agreement at a formal December summit is viewed by all sides as the final deadline, to leave enough time for its ratification by the British and European parliaments before Brexit day.

If and when a deal is reached, each member state's legislature must also approve the terms.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is still hopeful of negotiating a withdrawal deal from the EU.

In Brussels, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that concerns about a possible return of past tensions - about 3,700 people died during 30 years of "troubles" - can not be ignored.

But rational thinking is not always what determines the content and direction of domestic United Kingdom debate on Brexit.

When May was asked to confirm that this is her position, she dodged the question, saying only that nobody wants the backstop to be necessary at all, and that if it were, it would only last a few months. "People who have been supportive of her throughout this process, they are close to despair at the state of this negotiation", said Conservative lawmaker Nick Boles, a critic of May who during the referendum backed remaining in the European Union and now wants to stay in the single market on an interim basis. A longer transition would, for them, simply extend the period of "Brexit in name only".

The so-called "backstop" will apply if there is no proper EU-UK trade deal post Brexit. An extended transition period may not deliver. "These issues are still pending, but in the talks I had this morning with Prime Minister Theresa May, we encouraged one another to reach an agreement on two out of the four memorandums, those dealing with tax issues, which are the most flexible ones".

Tajani, however, also emphasised that "without an agreement on the three points (EU citzens rights in the UK, Brexit divorce bill and the Northern Ireland matter), the European Parliament can not and will not vote in favour of the agreement".

More immediately, an extension provides May with an opportunity to reassure her backbench opponents and the DUP that an agreement with the European Union can more realistically be put in place during the transition period such that the backstop arrangements will never have to be implemented.

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