Former UK envoy says May's Brexit plan a 'pipe dream'

Clay Curtis
October 12, 2018

She added that the plan for checks on goods was "a one-way turnstile, which could restrict trade from Great Britain to Northern Ireland" and said it was "the worst of one world".

The BBC understands concerns centred around plans to ensure no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Michel Barnier said that up to 85 percent of the work is done on the deal for the U.K's departure and post-Brexit relationship with the European Union, but the issue of ensuring a transparent border on the island of Ireland remains to be addressed.

Earlier, asked several times if she backed Mrs May's approach, set out in a White Paper in July, Ms McVey told the BBC: "I am completely supportive of the prime minister as she well knows, what I won't do even for you right now is speculate".

As officials continued to wrangle over the precise wording of the agreement in Brussels, a Downing Street spokeswoman also told a Westminster media briefing: "The Prime Minister would never agree to a deal which would trap the United Kingdom in a backstop permanently".

Mr Coveney also suggested the entire debate over Prime Minister Theresa May's Chequers proposals for the future EU-UK economic relationship, which are hugely unpopular with Brexiteers, was misplaced.

Britain is leaving the European Union on March 29 and the possibility of there being no deal on future relations - particularly trade - is worrying businesses and politicians.

Downing Street has always been clear that it does not wish or expect the backstop option to be implemented, as it insists it will be possible to agree a wider trade deal guaranteeing an open border in Ireland by the end of the transition period in December 2020.

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With the negotiations coming to a head, the central focus of the discussions on Thursday is thought to have been the issue of the Northern Ireland "backstop" meant to ensure there is no return of a "hard border" with the Republic.

Reports of a growing government revolt emerged ahead of a high-stakes summit in Brussels next week aimed at nailing down the details of the two sides' divorce terms.

The UK is expected to come up with new proposals as an alternative to the "backstop" put forward by the European Union - which the government has rejected, saying it would threaten the integrity of the UK.

High-level discussions between European Commission and United Kingdom negotiators have produced theories that would see the country remain a "rule-taker" in order to solve the thorny Irish backstop issue.

The revolt from May's coalition allies from Northern Ireland's small Democratic Unionist Party revolved around a separate idea it feels would threaten the integrity of the UK.

"She will not have DUP support regardless of whether the government tries to bribe, bully or browbeat us into accepting it", Wilson also said.

Other cabinet members, who appeared to not have been invited to the meeting, including Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, and Penny Mordaunt, the global development secretary, were said to be frustrated with the lack of a time limit, and, according to The Times, citing an unnamed source, were considering their positions.

"Many of her cabinet colleagues have assured me of their unionism", she said.

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