Theresa May 'facing more resignations over her Brexit deal'

Erika Holt
November 6, 2018

Coveney had noted that Ireland's position on the Northern Ireland backstop "remains consistent", and that a time-limited backstop "that could be ended by United Kingdom unilaterally would never be agreed". Alternatively, it is proposed to establish in Northern Ireland a free customs zone, which, in turn, resent the EU.

May's spokesman refused to confirm the report, calling it "speculation", according to Sky News.

"We are committed to everything we have agreed to in the joint report and we will ensure there is no border on the island of Ireland", she told the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in London on Monday.

Ms McDonald was speaking to the media after it emerged that Leo Varadkar told UK Prime Minister Theresa May in a phone conversation that he was willing to consider proposals for a review clause in any backstop plan.

Reuters reported on Friday that the European Union has suggested a backstop post-Brexit customs arrangement that would cover all of the UK.

With less than five months until Britain is due to exit the EU, May has yet to clinch a divorce deal, with negotiators stuck on the so-called "backstop" arrangement that would keep open the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland regardless of what course Britain takes after Brexit.

The Telegraph reported late on Sunday that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had demanded Britain retain the right to pull out of the Irish backstop after just three months - a pitch he made to "stunned" Irish officials days before Mr Lidington's comments in Dublin.

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The EU had wanted to impose a Northern Ireland-only backstop, in which the region would remain in the single market and customs union, but May wants Brussels to accept an alternative UK-wide customs backstop, to avoid creating an invisible customs border in the Irish Sea.

A spokesperson said: "The prime minister has been clear that we are making good progress on the future relationship and 95pc of the Withdrawal Agreement is now settled and negotiations are ongoing".

Lidington also said the British government would stand by the written commitments it had already made on the backstop, which include an agreement that it would apply unless and until a better solution is found.

After that meeting, Coveney said: "I think we're very close to resolving it, I certainly hope we are".

Now, top European Union bureaucrats are indicating they are prepared to offer the Prime Minister an "independent mechanism" by which Britain could trigger a "review" on the customs arrangement and move towards ending them.

The opposition Labour Party has all but ruled out supporting any deal May reaches with Brussels, leaving the prime minister reliant on her slender parliamentary majority that comprises her own divided MPs and coalition partners the Democratic Unionist party.

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