Crucial Brexit negotiations have stalled yet again as the issue of the Irish border proves too big a stumbling block to overcome.
Theresa May has said that negotiations would continue before the end of the week and was confident of a positive outcome after Brexit talks once again failed to progress.
It is understood that the reason talks are unable to move to the next stage is because an agreement cannot be reached with regards to the Irish border, with Theresa May’s supply and confidence allies, the Democratic Unionist Party unwilling to accept concessions made by the Prime Minister. Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, stated that a deal had been done with Theresa May however, after she had discussed it with the DUP, she appeared to change her mind.
After Theresa May’s humiliating election campaign that saw her lose her majority in June, the Prime Minister made a deal with the DUP to make up the numbers in parliament. Without the DUP on side she will be unable to pass laws without unlikely cross party support. The price of that deal is now being exposed.
The dispute has arisen after Varadkar declared he will veto any Brexit deal that left a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This is a problem for May as Brexiters, not only in the UK but in parliament, her party and even her cabinet are pressuring her for a hard border with the EU. Even some remain voters would struggle to support a customs union whereby the UK must abide by EU regulations without being in the EU to have a vote on them – a far cry from the ‘take back control’ slogan used by the leave campaign.
The proposal that May reportedly briefly agreed to was a special arrangement for Northern Ireland in which it would remain in the EU’s customs union and single market in all but name, with the rest of the UK having a hard border from the EU. Leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, however refuses to accept any form of regulatory divergence of Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. A number of Conservative MP’s are also said to have been sceptical of the deal.
One of the problems faced for Northern Ireland under these terms would be that they would need to adhere to EU regulation whilst not having a say in what they were. But the biggest problem for Northern Ireland would be that they would have a hard border with the UK, which they are a part of.
Tory MP and remain supporter Anna Soubry said that the simple solution would be for the whole of the UK to remain in the customs union and single market.
SNP’s Nicole Sturgeon, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan all stated that if special deals were available for Northern Ireland it would be difficult for Mrs May to deny Scotland, Wales and London respectively their own special arrangements.
Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat Party Brexit Spokesperson said:
“As each day goes by, it becomes clearer that the best deal for everyone is to stay in Europe. The people of the UK must be given a vote on the deal and an opportunity to exit from Brexit.”
However, despite the issue of the Irish border, European Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, and Theresa May were optimistic of a deal being reached by 15th December. Juncker said that the British and European positions were narrowing and that these were only the start of the talks.
It will be a crucial few days for Britain and for the government as if an agreement cannot be reached then a no deal Brexit becomes increasingly likely.