UK's Brexit chief rushes to Brussels for Sunday talks

Clay Curtis
October 14, 2018

Theresa May's Conservative government and the European Union have spent months trying to find a solution to ensure frictionless trade post-Brexit at the UK's only land border with the European Union, between the British territory of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Tweeting after he met British Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab following a weekend of talks between officials, Barnier said: "Despite intense efforts, some key issues are still open, including the backstop for IE/NI to avoid a hard border".

Writing in the Sunday Times, Mr Davis, who quit in July over Brexit, said: "It is time for the Cabinet to exert their collective authority".

It's not clear for how long the two will meet, or whether the Brexit secretary will stay in Brussels overnight, although there are indications this might just be a day trip.

European Union flags are seen outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, prior to a meeting between Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the EU Dominic Raab and EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, Belgium October 14, 2018.

The need to resolve the backstop issue is a political headache for the Prime Minister, who depends on the votes of the 10 DUP MPs to prop up her administration in Westminster.

"Adopting a constructive and transparent approach would be in the national interest", says the letter, organised by the Economists for Free Trade group of Eurosceptic economists and former Brexit minister Steve Baker.

The UK Government said there were still "unresolved issues" relating to the backstop but it remained committed to making progress at Wednesday's summit.

Former Brexit minister David Davis.

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The British prime minister, who relies on support from a tiny Northern Irish group - the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - for her parliamentary majority, faces strong resistance from the DUP to any deal that leaves the territory under the EU's jurisdiction.

Preventing any return of a "hard" border in Ireland has become one of the major obstacles, with Brexit campaigners fearful that a backstop with no expiry date will keep Britain inside a customs union with the EU indefinitely.

"This is one of the most fundamental decisions that government has taken in modern times".

"This week the authority of our constitution is on the line", he said in an article in the Sunday Times.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged ministers to unite behind the prime minister, insisting there were "different ways" to ensure any customs commitments were "credibly time-limited".

The party, founded in 1971 by the evangelical preacher Ian Paisley, is unlikely ever to wield such influence in Westminster again and to vote against a Chequers-type Brexit deal with regulatory checks between Britain and Ireland would bring the curtain down on the DUP's role as powerbroker.

"This backstop arrangement would not be temporary".

"What we can not do is see the United Kingdom locked in by the back door to Customs Union Arrangement what it should leave us in a definite limbo".

Amid fears over the direction of the talks, it has also emerged that the M26 in Kent is being closed overnight as part of contingency plans to to see if it can be used as a vehicle park for lorries in the event of no Brexit deal being reached between the United Kingdom and the other 27 European Union nations by March 2019.

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