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Brexit deal broke down when EU demanded SECOND Irish border backstop

May torpedoed draft Brexit deal after the EU demanded a SECOND backstop for Irish border – amid warnings no-deal plans must be triggered within WEEKS to avoid the UK being crippled by crashing out

  • Theresa May has been struggling for months to thrash out divorce deal with EU
  • An agreement on the withdrawal terms was thought to be very close yesterday
  • PM said to have blocked draft deal after EU revived its demands on Irish border
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Theresa May torpedoed a draft Brexit deal after the EU demanded a second backstop for the Irish border, it was revealed today.

The Prime Minister pulled out of sealing an agreement after Brussels tried to revive its original plan for Northern Ireland to stay within its customs jurisdiction.

The prospect – which has already been flatly rejected by Mrs May – is understood to have thrown the tense negotiations into chaos with just days until a crunch summit.

Upping the stakes today, a senior DUP figure said they believe a no-deal outcome is now ‘probably inevitable’.

The time pressures were underlined today after civil servants warned ministers that contingency plans must be activated within weeks to avoid the UK being crippled if we crash out.


Theresa May, pictured in a visit to a charity in London today, is struggling to thrash out a deal with the EU


Chief whip Julian Smith raised eyebrows amid the frenzied negotiations last night by posting a photograph of a phone off the hook


Boris Johnson (pictured last week) has called on the UK to ‘stand up to bullies’ in negotiations with the EU as he demanded a ‘Super Canada’ deal to break the Brexit deadlock.

Hopes were raised that a divorce settlement was close yesterday when Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab made an unscheduled trip to Brussels for talks with Michel Barnier.

Officials including UK negotiator Olly Robbins were reported to have reached an outline deal, with political approval needed.

But after more than an hour of discussions, Mr Barnier emerged to say that ‘despite intense efforts’ there was still no agreement.

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Mrs May was thought to be trying to break the deadlock by proposing a new ‘backstop’ arrangement for the Irish border.

The blueprint could mean the whole UK staying in the EU customs union ‘temporarily’ and accepting regulatory checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

But Mrs May was already facing a huge outcry as there was not expected to be any hard end date – with many Cabinet ministers and Tory MPs fearing that in reality it would keep the UK subject to Brussels rules for good.

Boris Johnson renewed his attack on the PM today, demanding she stands up to Brussels ‘bullies’ to get a Canada-style trade deal.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis yesterday called on Cabinet ministers to mutiny and stop Mrs May cutting a soft deal. 

It is understood the EU surprised the UK team by insisting the new backstop should be underpinned by its original Northern Ireland-only backstop as it first proposed. 

Why can’t the UK and EU agree on a Brexit divorce deal?  

The Irish border is the major sticking point in the Brexit divorce negotiations.

The concept of a ‘backstop’, to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic whatever the future trade relationship, was agreed by both sides in December last year.

But they have dramatically different idea on how the mechanism would work. 

Brussels insists that Northern Ireland should stay under its customs jurisdiction. 

But Mrs May says that would be unacceptable as it would split up the UK.

The PM was thought to be trying to break the deadlock by proposing a new ‘backstop’ arrangement for the Irish border.

The blueprint could mean the whole UK staying in the EU customs union ‘temporarily’ and accepting regulatory checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

But Mrs May was already facing a huge outcry as there was not expected to be any hard end date – with many Cabinet ministers and Tory MPs fearing that in reality it would keep the UK subject to Brussels rules for good.

It is understood the EU surprised the UK team by insisting the new backstop should be underpinned by its original Northern Ireland-only backstop as it first proposed. 

That would involve customs checks on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – effectively imposing a ‘border in the Irish Sea’.

Government sources said there was a ‘real problem’ to be overcome.  

That would involve customs checks on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – effectively imposing a ‘border in the Irish Sea’.

Government sources said there was a ‘real problem’ to be overcome. 

A No10 spokesman said last night there were still ‘unresolved issues’ relating to the backstop but it remained committed to making progress at the European Council meeting.

However, there are not due to be any more formal negotiations before EU leaders gather on Wednesday – meaning it will be almost impossible to get a divorce deal agreed.     

A special November meeting has been mooted to sign off the separate political declaration on future trade relations. 

But that might not now happen as French President Emmanuel Macron has threatened to boycott it if there are not UK concessions on the Irish border. 

DUP leader Arlene Foster is said to have left a meeting with Mr Barnier last week convinced that no deal was the ‘most likely outcome’.

And the party’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson told the Belfast Newsletter today that he did not believe there was any package on offer that MPs would accept.

‘Given the way in which the EU has behaved and the corner they’ve put Theresa May into, there’s no deal which I can see at present which will command a majority in the House of Commons,’ he said,

‘So it is probably inevitable that we will end up with a no deal scenario.’

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney today insisted there could be no hard ‘end date’ to a border backstop.

Arriving in Brussels for meetings, he said that Dublin and the EU simply wanted Mrs May to follow through with agreements already made in March and December.

He said: ‘A backstop can’t be time-limited. That is new, it hasn’t been there before. 

‘Nobody was suggesting in March that a backstop would be time-limited in terms of picking a date in the future as an endpoint for the backstop. 

‘The backstop will be there unless and until something else is agreed, but unless you have something to replace it well then the backstop needs to be there as an insurance mechanism. 

‘That is all we are asking for, that’s all the Michel Barnier taskforce is also looking for now in terms of legal text.’  

Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell offered hope to Mrs May’s Government, saying he was optimistic a deal could be reached because the alternative would be ‘hard’ on Britain and the EU. 

Arriving at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels he said that a deal was unlikely at the EU27 meeting on Wednesday as leaders ‘are not going to have a miraculous solution on the spot’. 

But he added: ‘In Europe, agreements never come before the end of the time. We don’t have to dramatise, we still have time. We still have one month.’ 

He added: ‘We will continue negotiating, it is difficult for me to believe we will not be able to reach an agreement, it is too difficult, too hard, for both parts.’ 


DUP leader Arlene Foster is said to believe no deal is the ‘most likely outcome’ after holding bad-tempered talks with Mr Barnier last week




Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured right in the Commons last week) made an unscheduled dash to Brussels for talks with Michel Barnier (left) but failed to seal a deal


The DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson (pictured) said today that he did not believe there was any package on offer that MPs would accept

How does Theresa May’s Chequers deal compare with a Canada-style free trade deal?

CHEQUERS

Trade:

Britain would stick to EU rules on goods by adopting a ‘Common rulebook’ with Brussels, but not in the services sector.

Theresa May says this would allow the UK to strike free trade deals globally, but the scope would be limited by commitments to the EU.

The blueprint should minimise the need for extra checks at the borders – protecting the ‘just in time’ systems used by the car industry to import and export parts.

The UK Parliament could choose to diverge from these EU rules over time.

But there is an admission that this would ‘have consequences’.

Customs:

Britain would set up something called a ‘facilitated customs arrangement’.

This would see the UK effectively act as the EU’s taxman – using British officials to collect customs which would then be paid on to the bloc. 

The borders between the UK and EU will be treated as a ‘combined customs territory’.

The UK would apply domestic tariffs and trade policies for goods intended for the UK, but charge EU tariffs and their equivalents for goods which will end up heading into the EU.

Northern Ireland: 

Mrs May says her plan will prevent a hard Irish border, and mean no divergence between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

There would be no need for extra border checks, as tariffs on goods would be the same.

Single market origin rules and regulations would also be sufficiently aligned to avoid infrastructure.

 CANADA-STYLE

Trade: 

Britain would strike a Canada-style trade deal with the EU, meaning goods flow both ways without tariffs.

As it is a simple free trade deal, Britain would not be bound by most of the rules and red tape drawn up in Brussels.

The arrangement would be a relatively clean break from the EU – but would fall far short of full access to the single market.

Eurosceptics have suggested ‘Canada plus’ in key areas such as services and mutual recognition of standards.

The UK would have broad scope to strike free trade deals around the world.

Customs:

Technology would be used to avoid extra customs checks on the borders.

As a result goods travelling into the UK from the EU and vice versa would be tracked and customs paid without extra checks.

The EU has suggested this is ‘magical thinking’. 

Northern Ireland:

The EU says the Canada model would mean border controls are required between Northern Ireland and the Republic to protect the single market and customs union.

It insists Northern Ireland must stay in the bloc’s customs jurisdiction in order to prevent that.

Mrs May has signalled she agrees with the analysis – seemingly the reason she is reluctant to go down this route.

But Brexiteers point out that there is already a tax border between the UK and Ireland, and say technology and trusted trader schemes can avoid the need for more infrastructure. 

 

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