British PM May faces mounting pressure to rethink Brexit plan
British PM May faces mounting pressure to rethink Brexit plan
Former UK envoy says May's Brexit plan a 'pipe dream'
16 October, 2018, 14:43
"With several big issues still to resolve, including the Northern Irelandbackstop, it was jointly agreed that face-to-face talks were necessary" ahead of the summit, Raab's department had said. A joint statement from the British prime minister's office and the Department for Exiting the European Union referred to the Ireland issue as sticking point.
All three diplomats talked on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were still progressing.
Now the British leader has less than 48 hours to turn things around, before she addresses a meeting of European leaders on Wednesday evening.
He said: "She has declared herself to be a unionist, she has repeated that time and time again, she knows the consequences if she walks away from that promise, not just for Northern Ireland because of course she will open a Pandora's box in Scotland as well".
Much will depend on the stance taken by the EU's two big power players France and Germany, with French President Emmanuel Macron insisting on a firm line in Brexit talks.
Britain has long said it wants an agreement on a future relationship with the European Union, which London sees as including a common rule book for manufactured and agricultural products, something that would negate any need for a backstop plan for Ireland.
One of the issues that has been hampering progression of a deal has been that of the Irish border and a potential backstop - a mechanism to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland.
Oettinger confirmed reports that progress was being made on the hard issue of the border on the island of Ireland. The permanent removal of border infrastructure was an element of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Ireland after decades of sectarian conflict.
Britain says it will only accept that EU Brexit plan if it is temporary and does not hive Northern Ireland off permanently from the rest of the U.K.in terms of customs arrangements.
Britain warned on Friday that leaving the European Union without a divorce deal would mean drugmakers needing to stockpile experimental treatments from remaining member states in case of border delays.
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All attempts to reconcile these positions have so far failed.
Prime Minister Theresa May relies on her DUP allies' 10 MPs to prop up her minority Government in key votes and there have been suggestions the Northern Irish party could vote against the Budget. "Indeed, Northern Ireland's access to any new United Kingdom trade deals would also be regulated by Brussels", she said.
Should the DUP break with the Conservatives, May could face a no-confidence vote in Parliament that sparks a general election, with the not inconsiderable chance this would result in the Tories losing power altogether.
DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said "it is probably inevitable that we will end up with a no-deal scenario" because there was no agreement that would be accepted by Britain's Parliament. "I think it is possible to do it and I think with good will on both sides we can get there". At least 15 could back the government, which could be enough to get the measure through the House of Commons.
Raab, Britain's Brexit secretary, was not expected in Brussels on Sunday, but he made a last minute trip for an in-person meeting with Barnier.
The EU is proposing a "backstop" which would see Northern Ireland continuing to follow Brussels' rules after Brexit.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn blasted May's approach, saying "the Prime Minister's failure to stand up to the warring factions on her own side have led us to this impasse".
And Downing Street insisted that Mrs May would never agree a Brexit deal with the EU which "traps" the United Kingdom permanently in a customs union.
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