Ir­ish bor­der re­mains a stick­ing point for Brexit

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - BUSINESS -

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk spoke by phone Wed­nes­day amid signs of move­ment in dead­locked Brexit talks.

Tusk tweeted that the pair spoke “to take stock of progress in #brexit talks and dis­cuss way ahead.” Tusk has said he is will­ing to call a spe­cial EU sum­mit if there are new pro­pos­als from Bri­tain to un­block talks.

May’s Cab­i­net has been inch­ing closer to agree­ing on a com­mon stance on the key is­sue — main­tain­ing an open bor­der be­tween EU mem­ber Ire­land and the U.K.’s North­ern Ire­land af­ter Bri­tain leaves the EU. The emerg­ing plan in­volves keep­ing the U.K. in a cus­toms union with the EU un­til a per­ma­nent trade treaty is worked out, to re­move the need for bor­der checks.

But some pro-Brexit Cab­i­net min­is­ters want to see le­gal ad­vice drawn up by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­of­frey Cox be­fore they agree to any­thing. They fear Bri­tain be­ing locked per­ma­nently into a cus­toms union with the EU, which would limit the U.K.’s abil­ity to strike new trade deals around the world.

Op­po­si­tion Labour Party spokesman Keir Starmer also said the le­gal ad­vice should be pub­lished, be­cause “the pub­lic have the right to know pre­cisely what the Cab­i­net has signed up to and what the im­pli­ca­tions are for the fu­ture.”

Bri­tain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but di­vorce ne­go­ti­a­tions have been ham­strung by di­vi­sions within May’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment over how close an eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship to seek with the bloc.

Some min­is­ters, in­clud­ing Trea­sury chief Philip Ham­mond, want to keep closely aligned with EU rules to avoid bar­ri­ers to busi­ness with Bri­tain’s big­gest trad­ing part­ner. Pro-Brexit Cab­i­net mem­bers want a cleaner break so that the U.K. can set its own trade poli­cies and sign new deals around the world.

A doc­u­ment leaked to the BBC sug­gests the gov­ern­ment hopes to bridge the Cab­i­net di­vide and strike a deal this month, which would then be put to law­mak­ers for ap­proval.

Getty Im­ages

Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk ad­dresses a news con­fer­ence at an EU sum­mit at the Euro­pean Coun­cil in Brus­sels last month. Tusk and Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May spoke by phone Wed­nes­day amid signs of move­ment in dead­locked Brexit talks.

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