Brexit: PM's compromises a 'concern' for cabinet ministers

Clay Curtis
October 13, 2018

The Irish border "backstop", which seeks to avoid extensive checks on the frontier between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU state Ireland should the open border there not be maintained by a new, post-Brexit EU-UK trade partnership, is the biggest sticking point.

They fear the arrangement could end up becoming Britain's permanent economic relationship with the EU - despite the fact that government policy is to leave the customs union - as it would limit the UK's ability to strike future trade deals with non-EU economies.

The UK has suggested a temporary customs arrangement between the European Union and country as a whole, with the expectation that a permanent future deal would be in place by the end of 2021.

So in the coming days, when we see legal text of draft backstop and Withdrawal Agreement, this will surely be the time for Tory Brexiters to choose between supporting the PM and maintaining the fiction of party unity on the one hand and their ambitions for what the United Kingdom could and should be.

With less than six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, its most momentous shift in foreign and trade policy for over four decades, May is seeking to rally support at home on the details of a divorce deal though it is unclear if she can win parliamentary approval.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney insisted the backstop should be able to remain in place "unless and until something better comes along" and told ITV News it was a "deal breaker".

The prominent Brexiteer said that at least 40 MPs would vote down Theresa May's deal, even after "every possible technique" is used by the Government to persuade or force MPs to toe the party line.

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'I think that next week we can be very cautiously optimistic that we will make progress, ' Rutte said at a joint press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

"This backstop arrangement would not be temporary".

Earlier, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey pointedly refused to endorse the prime minister's Chequers blueprint for Brexit.

They indicated the collapse of negotiations could threaten electricity blackouts in Northern Ireland, disrupt Channel Tunnel rail services and cost the United Kingdom free trade agreements with more than 70 non-EU countries around the world. Trade from Great Britain into Northern Ireland would be in danger of restriction.

Her proposals are reported to involve Britain remaining part of the customs union on an indefinite basis, meaning EU rules and regulations will continue to apply.

It comes as the Times newspaper reports the PM is contemplating ending the Conservative-DUP agreement in order get her Brexit deal through Parliament.

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