Brexit: What is hap­pen­ing next in the ne­go­ti­a­tions?

Irish Independent - - News - SHONA MUR­RAY

What hap­pened this week? The Taoiseach and the UK Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May held a bi-lat­eral meet­ing in Bul­garia where Ms May put some ten­ta­tive pro­pos­als to him on avoid­ing a hard Border in North­ern Ire­land. What did the Prime Min­is­ter pro­pose to the Taoiseach? Ac­cord­ing to sources, the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment is will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a cus­toms part­ner­ship or ar­range­ment with the EU, that would negate the need for a cus­toms border. It would keep the UK in the EU’s cus­toms ar­range­ment until such a time as an­other so­lu­tion was found. Leo Varad­kar said he would not dis­close ex­actly what Ms May had of­fered, but made it clear that the plan from the Bri­tish was in­suf­fi­cient.

Is it work­able though?

Partly. But ac­cord­ing to the Taoiseach, based on what Ms May had proposed, a sig­nif­i­cant up­hill bat­tle re­mains. He said that for starters, the plans were ver­bal and not writ­ten, and at this stage, he was will­ing to take se­ri­ously only plans that were put in writ­ing and “legally op­er­a­ble”. Cru­cially, they did not deal with the fact that Ire­land and the UK will have dif­fer­ing reg­u­la­tions and rules if Bri­tain leaves the sin­gle mar­ket. And even though there may be no cus­toms checks, there will have to be checks on goods cross­ing the Border. This was es­pe­cially im­por­tant in the case of an­i­mals for the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try as the EU’s sin­gle mar­ket needed to be pro­tected against po­ten­tial dis­eases com­ing from coun­tries that the UK is deal­ing with. It ap­pears that the Bri­tish have left this ma­jor part out.

So are we any closer to sort­ing out Brexit?

We’re inches closer, but only inches. There is a pal­pa­ble sense of pes­simism among the gov­ern­ment and EU of­fi­cials that the UK will be able to get a rea­son­able so­lu­tion across the line by the June dead­line. How­ever, they are grate­ful the pro­pos­als are not de­pen­dent on tech­nol­ogy, be­cause this has been roundly dis­missed as un­work­able.

So the ‘direc­tion of travel’ is in­deed right, is how one source put it.

What hap­pens if there is no deal by June?

In very strong terms, the Taoiseach warned this week that there may be no ‘with­drawal agree­ment’.

This com­ment tells us that the Gov­ern­ment sees the prospect of the UK crash­ing out with­out a deal as be­ing raised.

How much time is there? For­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions re­sume be­tween the EU task­force and the UK next week.

They will have about two weeks to get things agreed by the June sum­mit.

Is­there­hope?

Yes. The EU is the cham­pion of brinkman­ship talks, and has snatched vic­tory from the jaws of de­feat on many oc­ca­sions.

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