Brus­sels Play­ing hard ball

The Observer - - Focus -

The Eu­ro­pean Union is de­ter­mined to do a deal on Brexit – but not at any cost. As it comes to crunch time, it is giv­ing lit­tle ground. The main stick­ing point af­ter more than two years since the ref­er­en­dum is the Ir­ish bor­der.

Last week the EU’s chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier, be­low, told May, in ef­fect, that a deal was there for the tak­ing if she would ac­cept some form of cus­toms union ar­range­ment that would al­low for trade to op­er­ate without fric­tion be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the rest of the UK.

This is the area for real ne­go­ti­a­tion in the next few weeks.

May has to find a mid­dle way be­tween what Brus­sels de­mands and what would be ac­cept­able to enough MPs in the House of Com­mons.

Barnier also says May’s Che­quers plan, with its com­mon rule­book on goods and a cus­toms ar­range­ment that would al­low the UK to avoid bor­der checks, while leav­ing it free to sign its own be­spoke trade deals, would give Bri­tish com­pa­nies “a huge com­pet­i­tive edge” and would be “counter to our very foun­da­tions”.

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