Brussels Playing hard ball
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”.