Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, is set to shoot down the attempt of Brussels to diffuse the row over the Northern Ireland border amid claims that the plan of the EU’ would still divide the UK.
Michel Barnier, the chief Brexit negotiator of the EU, has been trying to “de-dramatise” the issue of how to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland once a no-trade deal is agreed between the two parties.
The EU believes that Northern Ireland should effectively stay as part of the customs union and the Single Market in order to prevent a hard border being created. A hard border will impose checks on goods that are being carried out in mainland UK.
May has said that this is unacceptable since it would put a customs border between one part of Britain and another – resulting to a stalemate between the two negotiating parties.
On Tuesday, Barnier said that he was “ready to improve” his offer to the UK by acknowledging that customs checks could take place in forecourts and factories that are away from the border.
However, the Financial Times reported, an ally of PM May has since dismissed the said proposal, stating: “There is nothing new here.”
Before an informal gathering of EU leaders that will be held on Wednesday afternoon in Salzburg, Austria, May made use of an article that was published in Die Welt, a German newspaper, to appeal for fresh-thinking over the border issue.
She wrote in the article: “To come to a successful conclusion, just as the UK has evolved its position, the EU will need to do the same,” before adding: “Neither side can demand the unacceptable of the other, such as an external customs border between different parts of the United Kingdom.”
She will also be appealing directly to EU leaders over dinner that is scheduled on Wednesday evening. She will ask them to imagine how they would feel if their country was effectively “carved up.”
The issue over the Irish border is threatening to affect the signing off of the withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK.
Without the document agreed, the two sides will not be able to strike a trade deal. Thus, it will raise the risk of the UK leaving the EU in March 2019 on the terms of the World Trade Organisation.
Speaking before the Salzburg summit, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, called for the position of the UK on the Irish border to be “reworked.”
He said that an additional summit would be scheduled in mid-November to give the two sides more time to talk about the matter.