EU's Barnier says 'yes', Irish border issue could sink Brexit deal

Hannah Rogers
October 20, 2018

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said "we need much time, much more time, and we continue to work in the next weeks".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One, Mr Collins said: "We were told after the 2016 referendum, during the 2017 general election and afterwards by the Government that we would take control of our waters just like any other natural resource in March 2019". "What I feel today is that we are closer to the final solutions and the deal", he told a news conference.

British Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier addressed her fellow leaders, indicating that she could accept extending the post-Brexit transition phase to take the heat out the deadlocked issue of the Irish border.

Referring to the Irish border question, he said: "From the beginning of the mandate that was given to me, we always said that it was an issue that needed to be resolved".

He said that the European Union does not want to impose a hard Brexit.

Both sides agree there must be no hard border that could disrupt businesses and residents on both sides and undermine Northern Ireland's hard-won peace process.

The mooted special November summit to sign a withdrawal agreement may not be in the diary, but neither is the threatened "no-deal" November summit. Efforts to allay these objections, centred on fears of splitting the North from the rest of the United Kingdom, have run into trouble with the EU side who want to protect the single market and customs union.

The DUP's deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, also heaped pressure on the under-fire prime minister with further criticism of the proposal to extend the transition period, stressing that it offers "nothing significant" on the backstop proposals.

She also faces a rebellion from her parliamentary partners, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which has threatened to vote against her government's budget if she concedes to the EU's demands over the backstop.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labor Party, in a statement on Thursday said: "We are leaving the European Union, but we will not support a deal cobbled together by a divided and chaotic Conservative government if it's going to make life tougher for millions of people".

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Asked if the whole deal could founder over the border issue, he replied: "My answer is yes".

As she arrived for Thursday's meeting, May told reporters that the EU's original proposal for an Irish backstop was "unacceptable" because she said it would have meant "a border in the Irish Sea".

If there is a Brexit deal with the European Union, it will be presented to the 650 MPs in the House of Commons for their approval.

And one person familiar with the discussions said May's Tory party would find it hard to be fighting the next general election - due in 2022 - while the country is still inside the single market and customs union.

Yesterday, she tried to convince the European Union heads of state and government of her plans.

Conservative former minister Nick Boles - who is pushing for a "soft Brexit" move to temporary membership of the European Free Trade Association (Efta) - warned Mrs May is losing the confidence of the Tory party.

"She said that her aim was to wrap this up in November", one of the business people listening to the call said.

- Would extending the transition period solve the deadlock?

"We are in a negotiation but at the moment it begins to look more like a capitulation than a negotiation". We need to know what the other side wants - finally, ' said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. The EU is expected to send a letter to these partners asking that existing trade arrangements continue intact until the end of the transition; in other words, that they continue to treat the United Kingdom as party to these agreements even though it will have formally left the EU.

The chaos promised by "no deal" is very much in the minds of officials on both sides of the Channel.

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