May: EU must give up '˜unworkable' Brexit positions

Theresa May is to urge the European Union to 'evolve' its position on Brexit and not fall back on 'unworkable' ideas.

Thursday, 19th July 2018, 10:30 pm
Prime Minister Theresa May during a visit to Belleek pottery factory on the northern side of the border between Enniskillen in Northern Ireland and Ballyshannon in Donegal on Thursday

The prime minister will use a speech in Belfast on Friday to reiterate her refusal to contemplate any backstop deal that treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK.

Speaking at the city’s Waterfront Hall, she is due to say that any such deal would go against the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland 20 years ago after decades of conflict.

Mrs May will say that following the publication of the government’s white paper agreed at Chequers, it is “now for the EU to respond”.

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She will add: “Not simply to fall back on to previous positions which have already been proven unworkable. But to evolve their position in kind.

“And, on that basis, I look forward to resuming constructive discussions.”

The Irish border issue is one of the most disputed parts of the Brexit negotiations.

Mrs May’s speech comes the day after new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab headed to Brussels for the first time to take part in talks with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.

Mr Barnier told reporters on Thursday that it was “a matter of urgency to agree a legally operative backstop”, saying: “We need an all-weather insurance policy.”

In the event of a hard no-deal Brexit, the EU wants a backstop that would effectively create a border down the Irish Sea between the island of Ireland and Great Britain.

Mrs May has repeatedly voiced her opposition and on Friday is due to do so again, saying: “The economic and constitutional dislocation of a formal ‘third country’ customs border within our own country is something I will never accept and I believe no British prime minister could ever accept.

“And as they made clear this week, it is not something the House of Commons will accept either.”

As the EU warns member states to increase preparations, the prime minister is also due to insist that a deal can be reached with Brussels “that works in our mutual interest”.

She will say the deal will put the UK on the way to “a prosperous future, protecting jobs and boosting prosperity” at the same time as honouring the 2016 referendum result, adding: “I am passionate about that brighter future and the possibilities that are within our grasp.”