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Frosty reception for Theresa May's Brexit backstop plan in Brussels

Frosty reception for Theresa May's Brexit backstop plan in Brussels

The future of the border between European Union member Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit is one of the most hotly contested issues in the negotiations, with many on both sides of the border wanting to keep the current free-flowing frontier open. He added, "But a temporary backstop is not what we or, I believe, the Northern Irish people, want".

"If we want to build a new relationship, there needs to be more trust but also needs to be more realism about what is possible and not possible".

The EU proposed keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union but this was rejected by the government as well as Northern Irish party the DUP, which is holding together Mrs May's minority government. Checks on ferries between the mainland and Northern Ireland would be less disruptive, he said, than a "hard" land border and would mean only more regional devolution rather than threaten the integrity of the United Kingdom state.

Under the European Union proposal "Northern Ireland would form part of our customs territory", said Mr Barnier, adding: "What is feasible with a territory the size of Northern Ireland is not necessarily feasible with the whole United Kingdom".

And it calls for the arrangement to apply to the whole of Britain.

Instead it would see Britain staying tied to the EU's customs union for up to another year after an nearly two-year transition period if there were any delay in implementing a Brexit deal.

Pressed for a second time to give a cast-iron guarantee, she said: "I have always been clear that the backstop was time-limited".

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None of the three ministers threatened to resign during the discussions, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said. Potential barriers to worldwide trade were thrown up by the Government's decision to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, he claimed.

It would be used if a permanent customs deal is not in place at the end of the 21-month Brexit transition period, with the aim of avoiding a hard Irish border.

Companies face an extra 20 billion pounds ($27 billion) a year in costs to comply with the customs arrangement if there is a no-deal Brexit, Britain's most senior tax official said on Tuesday.

Best for Britain argues that both sides of the Brexit debate should welcome a second poll in less than three years to finally settle the question of Britain's membership of the European Union and said that the issue was diverting time and energy from other political concerns.

But Mr Barnier said: "Our backstop can't be extended to the whole UK. Why?"

It also says the parliament must vote on the deal and agree to a referendum, a different kind of people's vote campaign must be fought without the past mistakes in 2019 and it must be held before March 29, 2019 to decide the country's future.


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