Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Business | By Tara Barton

Former UK Ambassador to EU Says May’s Brexit Plan A ‘Pipe Dream’

Former UK Ambassador to EU Says May’s Brexit Plan A ‘Pipe Dream’

However, one of Barnier's team reportedly told diplomats last week that a deal is "very close" as a result of new United Kingdom proposals on the Irish border "backstop" - the final major outstanding issue standing in the way of the Withdrawal Agreement being finalised.

The Prime Minister was reported to have played down the prospects of a breakthrough at next week's EU summit in Brussels, billed as the "moment of truth" by European Council president Donald Tusk.

For customs and VAT, Barnier said, "we propose using the existing customs procedures to avoid doing checks at the transit points".

Barnier reiterated that as much as 85 percent of a withdrawal agreement had already been agreed, boosting the pound on financial markets. "They'll be discussing what we need to offer the DUP and how to get them on side", one said.

But this could see checks on goods travelling from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland - what Foster described as "an effective one-way turnstile".

Barnier said Brexit would trigger the need for customs, Value-Added Tax and compliance checks with EU standards between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the event that a planned "backstop" were triggered because a future EU-UK trade deal was not sufficient in itself to ensure the land frontier was not a "hard border".

"Our challenge is to make sure that these procedures are as easy as possible and not burdensome, particularly for small and medium businness", he said in a speech that ended with a standing ovation.

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The Northern Ireland party, which backs Theresa May's minority Conservative government in key votes at Westminster, has made it clear the radical move is on the table if the prime minister breaches their red lines in the Brexit negotiations.

Barnier said he realised such checks were politically hard but this was the outcome of Britons voting to leave the EU.

The plan would keep the whole of the United Kingdom in a customs union with the EU until a free trade deal was reached.

Can all three ever be satisfied with the terms of a Brexit deal?

The warning, amid continued opposition from May's own Conservative MPs to her Brexit strategy, further raised the stakes as negotiators seek a breakthrough ahead of a summit of European Union leaders on October 18.

The European Commission also looked at preparations among the 27 states for multiple disruptions that this would involve, including customs checks and duties kicking in immediately on all imports and exports.

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