LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May urged the European Union on Monday to not enable a stand-off over the so-called Irish backstop to derail Brexit talks, saying she believed a deal was nonetheless achievable within the coming weeks.
Addressing a rowdy session of parliament earlier than she headed to Brussels for a summit on Wednesday, May was upbeat in regards to the possibilities of a deal, however repeated she wouldn’t comply with something that would cut up the United Kingdom.
With lower than six months earlier than Britain leaves the bloc, talks stalled on the weekend over how to make sure there isn’t a return of a tough border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.
The stalemate has elevated the opportunity of Britain leaving the bloc with out an settlement, a “no deal Brexit” which might probably disrupt commerce, delay motion of products, and starve the world’s fifth largest financial system of funding.
“It is frustrating that almost all the remaining points of disagreement are focused on how we manage a scenario which both sides hope should never come to pass and which, if it does, would only be temporary,” May mentioned.
“We cannot let this disagreement derail the prospects of a good deal and leave us with a ‘no-deal’ outcome that no-one wants,” she informed parliament.
Underlining the financial significance of Brexit, the pinnacle of British-headquartered pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca mentioned it might maintain its freeze on manufacturing investments within the nation except a deal offers readability about future ties.
DIVISIONS ON SHOW
The 2016 referendum on membership of the EU deeply divided Britain, and people rifts had been on present in parliament, the place May acquired extra calls for for reassurance than phrases of help from lawmakers, even these in her personal Conservative Party.
May tried to elucidate the obstacles, which she described as largely technical, that had scuppered any hope of settlement within the talks in Brussels on Sunday.
She mentioned the EU had caught to a proposal of protecting Northern Ireland in its customs union if a UK-wide plan was not able to be put in place when a transitional association runs out on the finish of 2020.
May insists any customs association as a part of the backstop have to be non permanent, ending on the newest in December 2021, however the EU has refused to set an finish date.
May described that as asking for “a backstop to a backstop” and mentioned once more Northern Ireland couldn’t be handled in another way from the remainder of Britain.
“As I have said many times, I could never accept that, no matter how unlikely such a scenario may be,” she mentioned.
But May nonetheless faces a wrestle to ease the considerations of not solely the EU, however of her Conservative Party and her companions in parliament, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The DUP’s Nigel Dodds pressed May for brand new reassurance that she’s going to stand by her phrases about Britain leaving as one nation, rolling his eyes when she answered by repeating acquainted phrases.
May additionally must attempt to maintain eurosceptics in her occasion on board. Her former overseas minister turned loudest critic, Boris Johnson, pressed her to place a agency time restrict on any backstop, fearful it might maintain Britain within the EU’s sphere indefinitely.
EU leaders expressed disappointment that the backstop row had sunk the opportunity of a deal on the weekend, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying “at the moment it actually looks a bit more difficult”.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney mentioned any deal would now “take a bit more time than many people had hoped”.
But a spokesman for May expressed hope, saying there have been “a number of means of achieving what we want to achieve” on the backstop, however declined to provide particulars.
And, in a change of tone, Arlene Foster, the chief of the DUP, mentioned she additionally hoped for a “sensible” Brexit.
“I very much hope that we do get a deal,” she informed reporters. “We want to see a sensible Brexit, one that works for Northern Ireland, but also one that works for our colleagues and friends in the Republic of Ireland.”
Additional reporting by Amanda Ferguson in Belfast, Gabriela Baczynska, Francesco Guarascio, Alastair Macdonald in Brussels and Michelle Martin in Berlin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy