Published: Sat, September 22, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

British PM hits back at European Union over Brexit plan

British PM hits back at European Union over Brexit plan

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said negotiations on the Brexit withdrawal deal needed to be ramped up after British prime minister Theresa May told European leaders Chequers was the only route to a deal.

Keir Starmer MP, Labour's shadow Brexit secretary, said: "It has been clear for weeks that Theresa May's Chequers' proposals can not deliver the comprehensive plan we need to protect jobs, the economy and avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland".

After receiving what she described as a "frank" briefing on the Brexit talks from Tusk, May gave a defiant press conference in which she insisted her plan was "the only proposal on the table".

She has flatly rejected a European Commission backstop proposal for Northern Ireland to remain within the EU customs area after Brexit, arguing this would draw a border down the Irish Sea.

"There is a lot of common ground on the basis of [the United Kingdom plan], especially in the area of domestic security and also foreign cooperation and other issues, but there is still a lot of work to do on the question of how future trade relations will look". Tusk said a special Brexit summit could be held in mid-November if things progress as hoped - but only as a "punch line" if most of the deal had already been agreed.

They listened politely for a few minutes but said afterwards that a stalemate on the Irish border was unbroken - though some European Union diplomats detected a cracking of ice around the spectacular summit dinner table, laid in the Salzburg theatre used to film a dramatic escape finale in the film "The Sound of Music".

The Prime Minister made the announcement after Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, savaged her Chequers plans, saying it "would not work".

May's combative remarks were calibrated to appease euroskeptic Conservatives ahead of what's likely to be a bruising annual party conference at the end of the month. "But our European partners if they want to reach a deal, have to find a way of understanding that there are some things we can not accept". "You can't belong to the single market if you are not part of the single market, but you can develop a lot of creativity to find practical, good, close solutions".

The EU27 also set an October deadline for a solution to the Irish border issue, despite the Prime Minister confessing just hours before during a private meeting with her Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar she felt it was "impossible" to come to a compromise in just a few weeks.

"Unfortunately we can not at this stage exclude a no-deal - it depends on both sides of negotiations".

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She maintains that the backstop would divide Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of customs after Brexit day in March.

Britain and its European Union partners have failed to secure a breakthrough in Brexit talks largely because of seemingly intractable divisions over the best way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

With barely six months until Britain leaves the bloc, at the risk of serious disruption if there is no deal to tie up legal loose ends, there is pressure on both sides: "You can hear very clearly the clock ticking in the room", said the second diplomat.

"What we are proposing is a fair arrangement that will work for the EU's economy as well as for the UK's without undermining the single market", May told them.

"It was a good and fearless step by the prime minister", Macron told reporters.

The former Tory MP and adviser to ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis, Stewart Jackson, blasted Tusk for "appalling and cheap conduct".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May had shown herself "incapable of delivering a good Brexit deal", and shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer accused her of being "in denial".

Despite the furious row, he said that he believed that a deal could still be reached.

"We will be bringing forward our own proposals shortly", she added.

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