Brexit Britain from Abroad: EU’s Scorn is a Blow for May - and Fantasy Brexiters
Soft Brexit is an Imperative
The British government’s agreement last December to the Irish backstop and the prospect of some form of special status for the North has prompted a change of tune from the DUP with the party now focused on ensuring that the North should end up having whatever arrangements apply to the UK as a whole.
If prime minister Theresa May manages to deliver a soft Brexit it seems the DUP will stay on board as long as the deal involves the entire UK and does not imply any special status for the North.
There was some more food for thought for unionists in another set of poll results, published this week, which showed that Catholics in the North are much more likely to support a united Ireland if there is a hard Brexit in which the UK leaves the customs union and single market.
Conversely, only 28 per cent of Catholics would vote for a united Ireland if the UK changed its mind and remained in the EU. The message is that if the current frictionless border remains in place under whatever deal is agreed between the EU and the UK then the pressure for a united Ireland will ease. That is something all the parties in the North need to consider carefully.
Britain is Living in a Fantasy World, says EU
Three days of talks in Brussels wrapped up with little headway on the most important issues, in particular on how to prevent a hard Irish border, according to an EU official in an anonymous briefing to reporters in Brussels.
The EU said the UK has still not come to grips with all the steps needed to avoid frontier checks on the island of Ireland, which is a condition for the entire Brexit deal, and hasn’t formally pitched its plan, the official said.
"I don't think that's a particularly helpful comment," UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond told reporters in Brussels on Friday, referring to the "fantasy" criticism. "We're very conscious of the ticking clock and the need to make significant progress for the June European Council."
The EU's response is a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May who was hoping that, after going some way to bridging divides in her cabinet over the UK's future customs relationship with the EU, the bloc would accept her proposals. But the EU is "confused" by the plan, the official said.
Customs Union the Only Option
The "only viable option" for the UK is to extend its membership of the European Customs Union after the post-Brexit transition period, in the face of the government's inability to come up with an alternative scenario, a report by British parliamentarian says today.
"In the absence of any other plan, such an extension will be the only viable option," said the very critical, multi-party report of the House of Commons Commission on leaving the European Union. The UK must leave the EU in March 2019 while remaining in the Customs Union for a transitional period until the end of 2020, the time to establish a new partnership. However, concern is growing about the date of implementation of a new customs system because London has not yet decided on the solution he wants to propose in Brussels.
Two options are on the table. One, called "maximum facilitation", would be a particularly technological solution designed to maintain the fluidity of trade with the EU. The other would take the form of a customs agreement in which the United Kingdom levies customs duties on behalf of the EU for goods passing through its territory but destined for the 27 market, while applying its own taxes for those destined for the UK. It is "highly unsatisfactory" that the government still needs to agree on the business model and customs it wants to implement after Brexit, denounced the parliamentary commission.
"Twenty-three months after the referendum (on leaving the EU) and fourteen months after the launch of Article 50 (of the Treaty of Lisbon, triggering the exit process, ed), we still do not know what will be the UK's future relationship with the EU on trade, services, security, defense, consumer protection, data, broadcasting rights and many other things," regretted the Chairman of the Commission, Hilary Benn.
Brexit Bill Cannot Be Used as Lever
The UK Government has acknowledged that it must settle the farewell bill for leaving the EU sooner than was previously the case. Brexit Minister Suella Braverman said that the billions would be due before the completion of the trade agreement with the EU.
So far, British ministers have always given the impression that they could use the outstanding payments as a kind of bargaining chip to strengthen Britain's position in trade talks.
Prime Minister Theresa May agreed in principle with the EU in December that her country would have to settle unpaid bills in connection with Brexit. These include pension obligations and promised funds for promotional programs. The payments are expected to total between 40 and 44 billion euros.
After Brexit, Britain is aiming for a swift trade agreement with the EU to avoid a tough cut. Minister of State Braverman has now acknowledged that payments to Brussels could not serve as a one-sided lever.
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