The UK is set to leave the EU in just over three weeks and both sides still haven’t agreed on a deal. British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to call on Brussels to make concessions at a speech in northern England.
The European Union should make concessions in Brexit talks to convince British lawmakers to back a controversial exit deal next week, British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to say on Friday.
The call comes as Brussels and London struggle to reach an agreement to avoid a potentially damaging no-deal Brexit at the end of March.
What May is expected to say:
According to a pre-released copy of May’s speech, the prime minister will say:
- The UK government is still committed to seeking legal changes to the Brexit deal to ensure that a controversial provision known as the “Irish backstop” is temporary.
- “Just as MPs will face a big choice next week, the EU has to make a choice, too. We are both participants in this process. It is in the European interest for the UK to leave with a deal.”
- “We are working with them but the decisions that the European Union makes over the next few days will have a big impact on the outcome of the [parliamentary] vote.”
What is the Irish backstop? It’s an insurance policy to keep an open border between Northern Ireland, a UK province, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member. It would keep the UK in a “single customs territory” with the EU and would enter force if both sides fail to agree on a new trade agreement.
Why is the backstop so controversial? Many pro-Brexit lawmakers in the UK worry that the backstop could force the UK to align its rules with EU ones indefinitely. This would preclude the UK from signing independent trade deals with non-EU countries, a power many so-called Brexiteers demand.
Try, try and try again: To win Brexiteer support, May wants legally binding assurances from the EU that the backstop is temporary. But Brussels has repeatedly rejected that proposal in support of the Republic of Ireland, which wants an open border regardless of whether both sides can agree on a post-Brexit trade deal.
EU deadline passes: The EU had demanded that the UK rework its proposals for changing backstop by Friday. The UK’s attorney general was in Brussels earlier this week to discuss a compromise, but came home empty-handed.
Fears of a no-deal Brexit: The UK is set to leave the EU, deal or no deal, on March 29. Businesses across the continent fear a no-deal Brexit would severely disrupt UK-EU trade. British lawmakers could avoid that outcome next week. If Parliament rejects May’s deal at a vote on March 12, another vote will be held on delaying Brexit.
amp/rt (Reuters, AFP)