United Kingdom ministers to meet to hammer out agreement on Brexit backstop

Michel Barnier

GETTYMr Barnier accused the UK of failing to provide a firm negotiating position

But it is likely the main focus of the meeting of the world's seven wealthiest industrial nations will be dominated by discussions around the U.S. president's controversial trade strategy. "The temporary backstop is not in line with what we want or what Ireland and Northern Ireland want and need". "That is why there needs to be more trust and reality about what will be possible and what is not possible in the negotiations".

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Friday a British proposal for avoiding border problems with Ireland after Brexit "raises more questions than answers" but was still welcome progress toward solutions. He said on Wednesday the backstop proposal was still being discussed but he expected a decisive conclusion to the talks on Thursday.

At the heart of the problem is ensuring there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, which both Britain and the European Union have committed to. The current proposal would see Britain applying the EU's external tariffs for a limited period beyond December 2020. "Those that Boris Johnson and his colleagues have set out".

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But fears over the "integrity" of the so called EU single market and customs union, in a post-Brexit world where the United Kingdom operates different trade tariff regimes with different countries to the EU, have led the EU to threaten a hard border on the Emerald Isle. The "backstop" commitment to which Theresa May signed on to in December 2017 meant that N. Ireland would retain membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union for as long as there was no final agreement. "How does that fit with the absence of a hard border in all circumstances?"

The Prime Minister claimed "nobody ever said it was going to be easy" to quit the European Union but pledged to "deliver Brexit for the British people".

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Downing Street said the backstop plan was unlikely to be needed but this has not allayed the concerns of pro-Brexit Conservative politicians, who wanted a clear end date for the proposal.

May's ministers are split on what kind of customs deal Britain should seek from the European Union ahead of a summit of the bloc's leaders which will try to make progress on the stalemated Brexit negotiations this month.

DUP leader Arlene Foster says Barnier does not understand the wider unionist culture of Northern Ireland.

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It also says the parliament must vote on the deal and agree to a referendum, a different kind of people's vote campaign must be fought without the past mistakes in 2019 and it must be held before March 29, 2019 to decide the country's future.

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