EU Brexit chief says UK border offer short on answers

Larry Hoffman
June 10, 2018

"Backstop means backstop", Barnier told reporters in Brussels, as he also insisted that the demand by David Davis, the Brexit secretary, for a time limit on the solution would not work.

The customs paper published by the British government earlier this week would see Britain effectively agree to apply European Union customs tariffs in order to avoid the need for checks at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, according to British media.

Pressed on whether he could remain in post if the backstop deal did not meet his full approval, Mr Davis said on Wednesday: "That's a question, I think, for the Prime Minister, to be honest".

But the customs boss defended the figure when he appeared before MPs and said a "similar" amount would be lost if the government fails to secure an agreement with Brussels.

Mr Barnier said that "much remains to be done" on the withdrawal issues of data protection, geographical indications for food and drink and the resolution of proceedings relating to the United Kingdom which are ongoing at the end of the transition period.

Barnier did not rule out a deal on continued membership of the customs union.

Sky News understands the backstop agreement is vitally important to this group of Tory MPs, whose support is needed by the PM to defeat the Lords amendments and to boost her negotiation mandate in Brussels.

London has rejected this plan as unacceptable, offering instead a "temporary customs arrangement" for the whole of Britain that would "maintain the status quo for traders in respect of customs processes".

Pressed for a second time to give a cast-iron guarantee, she said: "I have always been clear that the backstop was time-limited".

And he reportedly said it is "beyond belief" the Northern Ireland border had become an obstacle, dismissing concerns about disruptions as "pure millennium bug stuff".

The Dutch government is warning businesses that Dutch products made using British parts and exported outside the European Union could fall outside free trade agreements Europe has made with other parts of the world, and therefore be subject to tariffs.

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer characterised Thursday's events as "another embarrassing day for the government".

Theresa May is battling for Government unity on her backstop proposals for the Irish border as the Brexit war Cabinet meets.

"A backstop that is temporary is not a backstop, unless the definitive arrangement is the same as the backstop", he said. It stated that the aim of the future trade negotiations would be to address the challenge of the Irish border through the overall EU-UK relationship.

The DUP, meanwhile, will not accept the EU's preferred option of creating a customs border in the Irish Sea, as it threatens the "constitutional integrity" of the union.

And he questioned whether Mrs May's proposals would deliver an "all-weather backstop" fit for all circumstances. "Because it has been designed for the specific situation of Northern Ireland". It also said it would keep Northern Ireland inside the European Union customs area.

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