Despite May’s Brexit Concessions, EU Negotiator Pushes For More Irish Border Control

Brexit

European Union (EU) Brexit negotiators are not keen on the Prime Minister’s customs plans for a “soft” Brexit and are set to continue hammering the UK on the issue of the Irish border at up-and-coming talks.

The bloc’s unelected bureaucrats are still intent on forcing the UK into agreeing to a “backstop” if the border cannot be kept completely open, which would cut the province off from the rest of the UK by locking it in to the bloc’s Single Market.

Sources said Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is not convinced that Theresa May’s Chequers white paper will lead to a final agreement on customs and trade arrangements.

“No one sees this as a real landing zone, apart from the Brits,” they told The Times. “The priority is Ireland and getting the withdrawal agreement over the line for autumn.”

European ministers from the EU27 are due to meet on Friday, and statements emphasised that, despite Mr Barnier’s characteristic belligerence, they still hope to make progress.

According to The Times, European governments are firmly against Mrs May’s complicated customs plan but divided on allowing the UK access to the Single Market in return for following EU rules on goods, as her white paper proposes.

Diplomatic sources told the paper the EU would push for another fudge, accepting parts of Mrs May’s plan and direct the UK towards a customs union with the bloc, leaving the country unable to control trade policy.

“It will be a balancing act. To push for more evolution in Britain’s position without further destabilising the prime minister,” a European ambassador said.

However, Mrs May’s white paper would be the focus of later talks, during the “transition period”, with the withdrawal agreement and Irish border the EU’s priority on Friday.

The claims emerged as Leo Varadkar, the Irish premier, said his government needs to “step up our preparations for a no-deal scenario”, although he said such an outcome is unlikely.

While noting “political instability in London and turmoil in Westminster”, he told the Irish state broadcaster RTE: “It’s not obvious that the government of Britain has the majority for any form of Brexit quite frankly.”

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