Michel Barnier: Tories' backstop arrangements for border raise 'difficult' questions

09 June, 2018, 20:46 | Author: Carlos George
  • GETTY•CHANNEL 4Brexit news Bernard Henri Levy said Britain will become

The government later published its proposal for a backstop plan to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, with an ambition for it to end by the time of the next general election.

Should Britain's proposal be unworkable, European Union nations insist that a "backstop" remain in place to keep Northern Ireland within Europe's customs arrangements.

Labour wants Britain to remain in "a customs union" with the EU after Brexit, to ensure tariff-free access and frictionless trade with the remaining 27 members.

Ministers are also concerned as it does not state that Britain will be able to unilaterally decide when the backstop should end, which had been one of their key demands, the Telegraph reported.

'Difficult to see how United Kingdom proposal on backstop will deliver a workable solution to avoid a hard border and respect integrity of the single market/customs union, ' tweeted EU parliament chief Guy Verhofstadt.

The row escalated as Sir Alan Duncan, minister at the foreign office and deputy to Boris Johnson, raised the possibility of a second Brexit referendum on the final deal.

Flanders' exports to Britain are worth some 28 billion euros (24.5 billion pounds) per year and the Flemish government said sales to Britain could shrink up to 2.5 percent in case of a hard Brexit. The UK says it wants to leave European Union regulation, he said.

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"I think it raises more questions than it provides answers", Michel Barnier told reporters, recalling that a Brexit withdrawal agreement must be sealed by October to leave time for parliaments to ratify it before the March 29 deadline. And amid the torturous, anorakish Brexit debate, replete with talk of backstops, a customs union, the Customs Union, a customs partnership, max fac, regulatory alignment, regulatory divergence, cherry-picking and cake-eating, it is a question that we can not let escape us.

"We respect Britain's red lines".

Amid the indecision, British and European businesses say uncertainty is hurting and they urgently need to know what future trade arrangements will be. We will go right to the heart of Britain and the core of the debate: "in Doncaster, Stoke, and Mansfield - places where the anguish of the people before 2016 has so clearly shaped the political landscape after it".

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "Our amendment removes Parliament's ability to direct the government in relation to negotiations, which would set a huge constitutional precedent in terms of which branch of the state holds the prerogative to act in the worldwide sphere".

The prime minister added: "We have been discussing with ministers over the last few days the nature of this document and what we would be saying".

Whitehall has proposed two customs solutions: a partnership under which Britain would collect import duties on the EU's behalf, and a proposal known as "max fac" (maximum facilitation) that would rely on new technology to conduct rapid border checks without a physical presence at the historically fraught frontier.

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