Irish PM tells United Kingdom it can’t halt backstop plans

Derek Mackay

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The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that Brexit secretary Dominic Raab had taken a "hardline" stance on the border, insisting that the United Kingdom should have the right to pull out of the backstop via a review process after just three months.

At the regular weekly meeting in 10 Downing Streets, senior ministers discussed proposals for a "review mechanism" to ensure that the United Kingdom is not stuck indefinitely in a possible backstop arrangement created to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

Theresa May is expected to brief her cabinet today on proposals to avoid a hard border in Ireland through a UK-wide customs arrangement that would eliminate most checks on goods.
To ease Conservative fears that the United Kingdom could effectively stay in the EU customs union indefinitely, preventing trade deals with other countries, Downing Street is pushing for a review mechanism that would allow the United Kingdom to exit the arrangement.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reported that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has privately demanded the right to pull Britain out of the EU's proposed Irish backstop after just three months.

Mrs May hopes negotiations can be concluded at an European Union leaders' meeting in late November or at a Brussels summit on 13 and 14 December.

Mrs May assured ministers that there would be another Cabinet before any agreement is settled, though her official spokesman said no extra meeting has yet been scheduled ahead of the regular weekly gathering next Tuesday. The focus was on the way in which the United Kingdom could leave the EU customs union.

"There can be no expiry date and there can be no unilateral exit clause, and if it were to be either of those things, the backstop would not be worth the paper it was written on", he said.

"I'm open to creative solutions and creative language but we will not resile from our fundamental resolution, the backstop can not have a time limit or an exit clause", he continued.

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Whitehall sources stressed that there was "much work to do" on what was a "fabulously complicated" solution to the problem of keeping open the border of Northern Ireland with Ireland post-Brexit.

Later, he even adapted May's "Brexit means Brexit" catchphrase to stress that a "backstop" deal for Northern Ireland was crucial.

Jeffrey Donaldson, an MP from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up May's government, said Dublin's refusal to budge could scupper a deal.

Donaldson said that he could not understand why the Irish government "seems so intent on this course".

A gathering of European Union leaders in Brussels on the previously mooted date of November 17 is now thought to have been ruled out, while a special summit later in the month would be dependent on European Union negotiator Michel Barnier declaring that "decisive progress" has been made in talks.

It came as shadow chancellor John McDonnell confirmed Labour would not support a temporary customs union with the EU.

A no-deal outcome, he said, "will have serious consequences for economy of Irish Republic".

"What I'm getting from business leaders, trade union leaders and others is they want permanence, they want stability".

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