LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Theresa May forged a compromise with senior members of her government Thursday amid opposition to her proposal for avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland after the U.K. leaves the European Union.
May held a series of meetings with top promoters of Brexit in her Cabinet amid reports that Brexit Secretary David Davis had considered resignation because he feared May’s plan could force Britain to follow EU trade rules indefinitely.
The debate centers on “backstop” arrangements that would be implemented if Britain and the EU fail to agree on a broader trade deal. The goal is to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland remains open after Brexit to protect economic links and the peace process.
May’s proposal would align British trade rules with those of the EU until a permanent deal is worked out. The government later published a document laying out its negotiating position, saying that it “expects the future arrangement to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest.”
“There are a range of options for how a time limit could be delivered, which the U.K. will propose and discuss with the EU,” the document said.
Conservative lawmaker David Jones told the BBC before the document was released that much of May’s Conservative Party shared Davis’ concerns about open-ended arrangements.
“It would tie us effectively into the EU’s customs arrangement for an indefinite period,” he said. “It would be the Hotel California scenario — we’d have checked out but we wouldn’t have left.”
May’s Conservative government is divided between ministers favoring a “hard Brexit” — leaving Britain freer to strike new trade deals around the world — and those who want to keep the U.K. closely aligned to the EU, Britain’s biggest trading partner.