Brexit hur­dles re­main

PM AND CAB­I­NET NOT SEE­ING EYE TO EYE ON FINER DE­TAILS De­spite all, the UK fi­nance sec­re­tary says talks with EU have be­come pos­i­tive.

The Citizen (KZN) - - WORLD - Lon­don

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May was strug­gling yes­ter­day to find con­sen­sus on Brexit pro­pos­als that would be ac­cept­able to her min­is­ters, her Con­ser­va­tive Party and the North­ern Ir­ish law­mak­ers who prop up her mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Euro­pean Union (EU) have ac­cel­er­ated and be­come more pos­i­tive over the past week, though sig­nif­i­cant hur­dles re­main, Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond said.

“What has hap­pened over the last week, 10 days, is that there has been a mea­sur­able change in pace,” Ham­mond told the BBC.

“But that shouldn’t con­ceal the fact that we still have some big dif­fer­ences left to re­solve. So process is a lot more pos­i­tive this week – sub­stance still very chal­leng­ing.”

With less than six months to go un­til the UK is due to leave the EU, May is seek­ing to rally sup­port at home on the de­tails of a di­vorce deal though it is un­clear if she can win par­lia­ment’s ap­proval for any agree­ment.

Bri­tish and EU ne­go­tia­tors are mak­ing head­way on the Ir­ish bor­der is­sue, the big­gest hur­dle to an over­all agree­ment, and hope for a Brexit deal break­through on Mon­day, diplo­mats said.

The Ir­ish bor­der “back­stop”, which seeks a way to avoid cus­toms checks on the fron­tier be­tween the Bri­tish prov­ince of North­ern Ire­land and Ire­land if there is no over­all exit deal, has be­come the big­gest stick­ing point in ne­go­ti­a­tions. As both sides seek to clinch a deal, the UK yes­ter­day was ex­pected to pub­lish more of its so-called tech­ni­cal no­tices which lay out the im­pact of a no-deal Brexit on spe­cific sec­tors of the econ­omy. May’s North­ern Ir­ish sup­port­ers ve­he­mently op­pose any checks be­tween the prov­ince and main­land Bri­tain af­ter Brexit.

The head of the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party, Ar­lene Fos­ter, said May “could not in good con­science” back an EU pro­posal for checks on goods be­ing im­ported to North­ern Ire­land from Bri­tain af­ter Brexit.

Un­der May’s pro­pos­als, the whole of the United King­dom would forge a cus­toms part­ner­ship with the EU af­ter a tran­si­tion pe­riod ends in De­cem­ber 2020 in the event of the back­stop be­ing trig­gered.

Some of May’s min­is­ters have urged her to put a time limit on that plan.

The Times news­pa­per said May was warned the is­sue was so se­ri­ous that she could face fur­ther cab­i­net res­ig­na­tions un­less she found a way to en­sure the back­stop was not per­ma­nent.

Speak­ing to North­ern Ire­land jour­nal­ists at her Down­ing Street of­fice, May said yes­ter­day that talks on the Ir­ish back­stop were likely to con­tinue un­til next month.

In the last week, there has been a mea­sur­able change.

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