May has EU concessions to keep United Kingdom in customs union

Ismael LynchNov 07, 2018

"The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) indicated an openness to consider proposals for a review, provided that it was clear that the outcome of any such review could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop", the statement said.

"Don't be under any illusion, there remains a significant amount of work to do", the spokesman told reporters.

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.

While final arrangements on the border are due to be agreed as part of later trade talks, a backstop arrangement in case such talks fail is proving tricky.

The fraught issue of preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is still proving to be one of the main sticking points holding back negotiations.

The EU's Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said "we are not there yet".

Speaking at the Great Catholic Conferences in Brussels, Mr Barnier stressed that Britain will remain "in all likelihood" a "neighbour, partner and ally" after March 2019.

"This has been committed to by the United Kingdom in order to have a withdrawal agreement".

May spokesman James Slack said she told the ministers she was confident of reaching a deal, but "while the United Kingdom should aim to secure a withdrawal agreement as soon as possible, this should not be done at any cost". "What is missing is a solution for the issue of Ireland".

Conservative MP Anna Soubry, a leading supporter of the People's Vote campaign for a second referendum, said: "Today has seen the start of another effort to force the Cabinet and Parliament to accept a so-called Brexit deal that resolves nothing about our future but promises only extra costs, further uncertainty and less say in the rules governing how we run our economy".

Jeffrey Donaldson MP, who represents Lagan Valley, responded to a tweet from deputy prime minister of Ireland Simon Coveney which rejected a time-limited backstop or a backstop that could be unilaterally ended by the United Kingdom without the agreement of the Republic and the European Union. Without an operational backstop there will not be an accord and there will not be a transition period.

The meeting of senior ministers today comes after Justice Secretary David Gauke said a no-deal European Union exit would be "very bad" for the United Kingdom economy.

"Can't understand why Irish Government seems so intent on this course".

It came as shadow chancellor John McDonnell confirmed Labour would not support a temporary customs union with the EU.

But allies of the PM were cheered that Cox had warned his colleagues that they risked a no-deal outcome if they insisted on a hardline plan to allow the United Kingdom to unilaterally pull out of any insurance policy on Ulster.

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