Still Not Good Enough: EU Set to Reject May’s Trade and Irish Border Proposals

British Prime Minister Theresa May gives a speech on Brexit at Mansion House in London on March 2, 2018. Prime Minister Theresa May will call today for an unprecedented free trade deal with the EU after Brexit in a major speech, but is expected to acknowledge that Britain will have …
PETER NICHOLLS/AFP/Getty

Brussels bureaucrats are set to reject the Prime Minister’s proposals for the Irish border and a unique but ‘softer’ form of Brexit, offering only a trade deal such as that agreed with Canada.

During her major Brexit speech last week, Theresa May argued that no trade deal is the same and the European Union (EU) should take a sector-by-sector approach to Brexit talks, adding that a Canada-style deal would not be right for maintaining current levels of trade.

“The EU is the UK’s biggest market, and of course the UK is also a big market for the EU. And furthermore, we have a unique starting point, where on day one we both have the same laws and rules,” the Prime Minister added.

However, an EU source has told The Telegraph they will reject Mrs. May’s position in new negotiating guidelines, insisting only a Canada-style deal can be achieved if the UK leaves the Customs Union. The guideline will leave open the chance for the UK to remain in the union, however.

“The message will be ‘this is what is feasible given the UK’s stated red lines’, but should those evolve, so would the available options,” the source added.

Remaining inside the Customs Union would leave the UK unable to take back control of its trade policy and strike deals with emerging markets, something the government and many Brexiteers have flatly ruled out.

Mrs. May also used her speech to call for the UK to stay “in line” with the EU in some areas, remain inside some EU agencies, and allow the bloc to influence the UK’s immigration policy after the divorce.

On the issue of Northern Ireland, she argued that it was possible to use technology to help keep the border relatively open, without the province remaining inside the Customs Union or creating a border in the Irish Sea.

However, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister said the EU is also set to reject this proposal on Sunday.

Simon Coveney told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show he was “not sure that the European Union will be able to support” the plan because of worries about safeguarding the integrity of the bloc’s Single Market.

“While of course we will explore and look at all of the proposed British solutions, they are essentially a starting point in negotiations as opposed to an endpoint,” he added.

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