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Brexiteers warn it would be ‘folly’ for Britain to end no deal plan

Brussels today officially gave the green light to UK-EU trade talks in a major new milestone on the road to Brexit.

EU Council President Donald Tusk announced EU leaders had agreed guidelines on how to tackle trade talks following a brief discussion at the summit in Brussels today.

No new changes were made to the document, which sets out a vision fora relationship that is ‘as close as possible’ – but does underline the EU determination to protect its own structures, including the single market.

The 27 EU leaders are expected to shortly rubber stamp a transition deal that will keep everything effectively the same from Brexit day on March 29, 2019, until the end of 2020. The terms of the deal were announced on Monday.

Theresa May was not due to take part in today’s Brexit talks, which are only held between the remaining 27 member states. The PM stayed overnight to take part in talks on Donald Trump’s steel tariffs.

Theresa May (pictured in Brussels this morning) will leave an EU summit later to allow the remaining EU members to sign off on the Brexit transition deal with Britain 

EU Council President Donald Tusk announced guidelines on trade talks had been formally agreed this morning 

EU Council President Donald Tusk announced guidelines on trade talks had been formally agreed this morning 

EU Council President Donald Tusk (pictured in Brussels yesterday) announced EU leaders had agreed guidelines on how to tackle trade talks following a brief discussion at the summit in Brussels today.

EU Council President Donald Tusk (pictured in Brussels yesterday) announced EU leaders had agreed guidelines on how to tackle trade talks following a brief discussion at the summit in Brussels today.

Despite the agreements, Brexiteers warned today it would be ‘folly’ for Britain to abandon preparations for a no deal Brexit when EU leaders rubber stamp a transition deal later.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexiteer ring leader on the Tory backbenches, said Britain must be prepared to walk away from talks until a trade deal was finalised.  

Last night Mrs May told EU leaders it is their duty to show ‘energy and ambition’ in negotiating a post-Brexit trade relationship which will be good for both Britain and Europe.

Mrs May was greeted with a kiss on the hand by EU negotiator Michel Barnier as she made a surprise return to a summit in Brussels this morning.

What is in the EU Council’s new negotiating rules on trade talks?

The EU Council today adopted  negotiating guidelines ahead of planned formal trade talks. It says:  

  • The EU wants tariff free trade with Britain after Brexit.
  • But it warns Britain cannot have ‘partial participation’ in the EU single market to achieve this. Services – crucial to the UK – will only be included with restrictions.
  • The document sets out a willingness on the EU side to let Britain stay inside the Single Market and Customs Union if Theresa May dropped her red lines on the issue.
  • There is common ground on a close defence, security and policing partnership. 
  • The EU wants a deal on aviation to keep planes flying after Brexit  

The Prime Minister has now left the summit as planned following EU-wide talks on Donald Trump’s US steel tariffs. The EU Brexit discussion will then take place.

Mr Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Tory European Research Group, said abandoning no-deal preparations would be ‘folly’.

He told Politico: ‘If we were ready [to walk away with no deal] the EU would not be, as it has made no plans to cut spending in the beneficiary states or raise revenue from the other net contributors.

‘That would leave us in a very strong negotiating position.’

Last night Mrs May told EU leaders it is their duty to show ‘energy and ambition’ in negotiating a post-Brexit trade relationship which will be good for both Britain and Europe.  

Addressing fellow leaders over dinner on Thursday Mrs May said that ‘compromise on both sides’ had been required to reach a mutually acceptable legal text on the transition.

Britain believes that moving on to trade talks with the EU will help unblock the logjam over the Irish border and prevent the need to implement a ‘backstop’ solution proposed by Brussels which would keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union.

Mrs May was greeted with a kiss on the hand by EU negotiator Michel Barnier as she made a surprise return to a summit in Brussels this morning (pictured) 

Mrs May was greeted with a kiss on the hand by EU negotiator Michel Barnier as she made a surprise return to a summit in Brussels this morning (pictured) 

Last night Mrs May told EU leaders it is their duty to show 'energy and ambition' in negotiating a post-Brexit trade relationship which will be good for both Britain and Europe (pictured arriving in Brussels with aides including ambassador Sir Tim Barrow, right, today) 

Last night Mrs May told EU leaders it is their duty to show ‘energy and ambition’ in negotiating a post-Brexit trade relationship which will be good for both Britain and Europe (pictured arriving in Brussels with aides including ambassador Sir Tim Barrow, right, today) 

London is hopeful that a solution to keep Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic open will emerge in the context of a deal allowing trade between Britain and the rest of the EU to be as frictionless as possible.

What are the key points agreed in the Brexit transition deal?

Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel  Barnier were all smiles as they unveiled the Brexit transition deal

Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel  Barnier were all smiles as they unveiled the Brexit transition deal

Rights of EU nationals

Britain has agreed that EU nationals arriving in the country during the transition period will have the same rights as Europeans living in the UK now. 

Free trade deals

Britain will be able to negotiate and sign free trade deals around the world during the transition period.

However, they will only come into force after the transition period has ended. 

The transition period

The transition period will end on 31 December 2021 – meaning Britain will have a 21 month implementation phase.

The Irish border

Britain and the EU promised to keep a soft Irish border.

Britain says it hopes to use technology to come up with plans to have an invisible border  as part of the free trade deal.

If nothing is agreed then a ‘backstop’ agreement will come into force meaning the UK would agree to align closely enough with EU rules to avoid a hard border.

Divorce Bill:

Britain signed up to the Brexit divorce bill, which is around £40billion.    

Mrs May told the EU27 leaders: ‘We have the chance now to create a new dynamic in the talks, to work together to explore workable solutions on Northern Ireland, on our future security co-operation and in order to ensure the future prosperity of all our people.

‘This is an opportunity it is our duty to take and to enter into with energy and ambition.’

Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar played down suggestions that he wanted the border issue settled by the summer.

‘Would I like to have it done by June? Yes, absolutely,’ he said. ‘But I would rather have the right deal in October rather than any deal in June.’

Mr Varadkar said he envisaged a trading relationship between the UK and the EU, ‘so close that many of the measures in the backstop may become unnecessary’. 

Arriving at the summit venue earlier, Mrs May said: “I am looking for a new dynamic in the next stage of negotiations, so that we can ensure that we work together to negotiate and develop that strong future economic and security partnership which I believe is in the interests of the UK and the EU.”

Mr Barnier, who kissed Mrs May’s hand as they met in the entrance lobby of the Europa building in Brussels, said Friday marked a “decisive” moment in “this difficult and extraordinary negotiation”.

He cautioned that the future partnership negotiated over the coming months “must respect the principles and identity of the EU and the single market”.

Addressing fellow leaders over dinner on Thursday, Mrs May said “compromise on both sides” had been required to reach a mutually acceptable legal text on the transition.

It will see the UK continue to observe EU rules until the end of 2020 while winning the freedom to negotiate and ratify trade deals with outside countries.

Britain believes that moving on to trade talks with the EU will help unblock the logjam over the Irish border and prevent the need to implement a “backstop” solution proposed by Brussels which would keep Northern Ireland in the customs union.

London is hopeful that a solution to keep Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic open will emerge in the context of a deal allowing trade between Britain and the rest of the EU to be as frictionless as possible.

Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar (pictured on Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel) last night played down suggestions that he wanted the border issue settled by the summer

Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar (pictured on Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel) last night played down suggestions that he wanted the border issue settled by the summer

Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured in London on Wednesday), the Brexiteer ring leader on the Tory backbenches, said Britain must be prepared to walk away from talks until a trade deal was finalised

Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured in London on Wednesday), the Brexiteer ring leader on the Tory backbenches, said Britain must be prepared to walk away from talks until a trade deal was finalised

What are the options for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit?

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker agreed the outline of a divorce deal in December

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker agreed the outline of a divorce deal in December

Theresa May and the EU effectively fudged the Irish border issue in the Brexit divorce deal before Christmas.

But the commitments to leave the EU customs union, keep a soft border, and avoid divisions within the UK were always going to need reconciling at some stage. Currently 110million journeys take place across the border every year.

All sides in the negotiations insist they want to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but their ideas for how the issues should be solved are very different.

If they fail to strike a deal it could mean a hard border on the island – which could potentially put the Good Friday Agreement at risk.

The agreement – struck in 1998 after years of tense negotiations and a series of failed ceasefires – brought to an end decades of the Troubles.

More than 3,500 people died in the ‘low level war’ that saw British Army checkpoints manning the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. 

Both London and Dublin fear reinstalling a hard border – whether by checkpoints or other means – would raise tensions and provoke a renewal of extremism or even violence if people and goods were not able to freely cross.

The DUP – which opposed the Good Friday Agreement – is determined to maintain Northern Ireland inside the UK at all costs, while also insisting it wants an open border. 

The UK blueprint:

The PM has made clear her favoured outcome for Brexit is a deep free trade deal with the EU.

This would mean being aligned closely enough with the bloc that there is no need for customs checks.

Any remaining gaps in customs regulations as a would be covered with technological solutions.

That is likely to mean cameras and electronic records, which would arguably not constitute major physical infrastructure.

Boris Johnson has suggested that a slightly ‘harder’ border might be acceptable, as long as it was invisible and did not inhibit flow of people and goods.

However, Brussels has dismissed these ideas as ‘Narnia’ – insisting no-one has shown how they can work with the UK outside an EU customs union.

The EU blueprint:

The divorce deal set out a ‘fallback’ option under which the UK would maintain ‘full alignment’ with enough rules of the customs union and single market to prevent a hard border and protect the Good Friday Agreement.

The inclusion of this clause, at the demand of Ireland, almost wrecked the deal until Mrs May added a commitment that there would also be full alignment between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

But the EU has now translated this option into a legal text – and hardened it further to make clear Northern Ireland would be fully within the EU customs union.

Mrs May says no Prime Minister could ever agree to such terms, as they would undermine the constitutional integrity of the UK.

A hard border:

Neither side wants a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. 

But they appear to be locked in a cyclical dispute, with each adamant the other’s solutions are impossible to accept.

If there is no deal and the UK and EU reverts to basic World Trade Organisation (WTO) relationship, theoretically there would need to be physical border posts with customs checks on vehicles and goods.

That could prove catastrophic for the Good Friday Agreement, with fears terrorists would resurface and the cycle of violence escalate.

Many Brexiteers have suggested Britain could simply refuse to erect a hard border – and dare the EU to put up their own fences. 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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