Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Brexit: May Pressured by Cabinet Ministers Over Indefinite Customs Union

Brexit: May Pressured by Cabinet Ministers Over Indefinite Customs Union

Ireland's deputy prime minister has warned the United Kingdom government his country "can't accept a time limit" on a Brexit backstop agreement aimed at preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Earlier Brexiteer Cabinet minister Esther McVey pointedly refused to endorse Mrs May's Chequers blueprint for Brexit, although she insisted the Prime Minister had her full support.

The UK government has sought to make any backstop agreement time-limited, but the European Union has rejected this.

But it is opposed by some within her own party who argue it would compromise the UK's sovereignty - former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has led criticism and Brexiteers have backed a "Canada plus plus" deal instead, modelled on Canada's free trade deal with the EU.

Both sides have made positive signals in recent days though also indicated they were still short of a deal, which would define the divorce terms and include an European Union declaration stating that it would seek the closest possible ties with Britain after Brexit ranging from trade to security to research.

The UK and the European Union both want to avoid a "hard border" - physical checks or infrastructure between Northern Ireland and Ireland - but can not agree how.

The BBC understands concerns centred around plans to ensure no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Reports of a growing government revolt emerged ahead of a high-stakes summit in Brussels next week aimed at nailing down the details of the two sides' divorce terms.

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Britain rejects the EU's proposed solution - to keep Northern Ireland inside the bloc's single market and customs union after the rest of the UK leaves - because it would create new barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK The EU has asked for a counter-proposal from Britain.

The document stated that the government "expects" this arrangement to remain in place no later than the end of December 2021.

The revolt from May's coalition allies from Northern Ireland's small Democratic Unionist Party revolved around a separate idea it feels would threaten the integrity of the UK.

Numerous problems are now being solved on a step by step basis "but there are, of course" several big issues which we really need to get to grips with, ' the prime minister said.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Wednesday said Britain must accept possible checks on goods moving between its mainland and its province of Northern Ireland, saying Brexit would trigger the need for customs, value-added tax and compliance checks with EU standards.

"I would advise them to hold firm against Brexit because either of these choices are unpalatable", he said at an event in London hosted by Reuters.

During the meeting work and pensions secretary Esther McVey pointedly refused to endorse the PM's Chequers plan while global development secretary Penny Mordaunt and the leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom also made it clear they held deep concerns.

"Many of her cabinet colleagues have assured me of their unionism", she said.

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