The European Commission has criticized Britain’s latest Brexit proposal, saying it urgently needs a “workable solution.” Disagreements about the UK border in Ireland remain an intractable problem.
Brussels on Monday said it needed Britain to present a viable proposal for the post-Brexit UK-Irish border, rather than “untried” arrangements that could be subject to cancellation.
Negotiations are approaching crunch time, with EU leaders set to meet next week to discuss how to proceed with Brexit.
European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva on Monday said the heads of government would need revised UK proposals in time to prepare for the talks. The plans, currently with the EU, were submitted by the UK last week.
“I think we all agree we need a workable solution now and not something based on untried and revocable arrangements that would be left to negotiation during the transition period,” Andreeva said.
“As we have also recalled, the UK proposals presented last week do not meet at present the objectives of the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland,” she said, referring to negotiating terms agreed in 2017.
“This is also the shared view of European Parliament, but also all member states.”
Legal requirement to delay?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted he will not seek to delay Brexit further and that Britain will leave the EU on October 31.
However, he may be forced to request an extension from Brussels because of a law passed by members of parliament aimed at stopping a potentially economically calamitous no-deal exit from the bloc.
Under the UK’s proposal, Northern Ireland would stay in the EU’s single market for goods and electricity provided that the Northern Irish Assembly based at Stormont agreed.
Johnson’s envoy, senior diplomat David Frost, was in Brussels on Monday for more “technical talks,” and Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay traveled to the Hague to meet Dutch officials.
Problems laid out in full
The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported, from leaked papers it had obtained, that numerous shortcomings in the UK proposals had been pointed out to Frost.
Among the main worries about the British propositions was that:
- The UK plan would give Stormont, and therefore the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) — which is aligned with Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party — the right to veto to all-Ireland regulatory arrangements.
- The UK has proposed a customs border with checks away from the frontier, something the EU said could disrupt the all-Ireland economy.
- The potential UK fallback position of no controls, checks or border infrastructure — with different regulatory arrangements on either side of the border — could leave the EU’s Single Market open for abuse.
rc/stb (Reuters, dpa)