Michel Barnier has reportedly said he is open to extending the transitional agreement by 1 year, which would keep the UK in the EU, in all but name, until 2021. This is the alternative to agreeing on a backstop.
The named ‘2 tier backstop’ sees the UK stay inside both the single market and the customs union until 2021, allowing enough time to agree a deal on Ireland.
The EU rejected May’s backstop, which kept the whole UK in the customs union, and May has rejected the EU’s which keeps only Northern Ireland in the customs union.
One EU official cited the new proposal as the EU being “flexible”.
A Downing Street spokesman:
“we’re not calling for an extension of the implementation period”, but would not say whether they would accept one if it was offered.
Any extension of the transitional agreement would anger Euroskeptic MPs who are frustrated with being tied to the EU for 2 years after the official Brexit date.
Hopes for progress on a backstop had risen when it was revealed that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had made an unscheduled visit to Brussels on Sunday, however, its now been confirmed that the talks have hit a brick wall. The DUPs Brexit spokesman says that it is almost inevitable that there will now be a no deal scenario.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said that all backstop proposals should be applied to the UK overall, not just Northern Ireland, however, the EU fear that the Governments proposal will not be ready in time, and thus are making contingency plans for the event that there is no backup plan in place from the UK.
As pressures mount over the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans, the UK and the EU have said that ‘key issues’ remain in the negotiations, but Michel Barnier says that talks over issues such as the ‘Hard Border’ with Ireland are ‘open’. And while its been claimed that ‘some’ progress has been made, the Ireland problem is one that neither the EU, nor the UK, can agree on.
This news comes amidst rumours that cabinet resignations are in line for the Prime Minister, as ministers have been forced to come out and deny they will quit in protest over the so-called ‘Chequers Plan’. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, refused to confirm she supports the PM’s proposals, simply saying she is ‘behind the Prime Minister’. Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary led a similar interview.