Theresa May puts ball back in EU´s court amid Brexit impasse
Theresa May has called on the EU to come forward with fresh proposals on Northern Ireland and trade, warning that without a move from Brussels it will not be possible to make further progress in Brexit talks.
Speaking in 10 Downing Street a day after the humiliating rejection of her Brexit plans at the EU summit in Salzburg, the Prime Minister recognised that negotiations had reached an “impasse” with just six months to go.
But she dismissed EU suggestions that the onus is on Britain to shift its stance, insisting that the ball is now in the European Union’s court.
The PM spoke after Thursday´s humiliating Salzburg summit with EU leaders (Kirsty O´Connor/PA)
Mrs May said she was ready to come forward with new ideas on unblocking the disagreement over future arrangements at the Irish border.
But, in apparent reference to European Council President Donald Tusk’s assertion that her Chequers plan “will not work”, she said: “At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and new proposals.
“So we now need to hear from the European Union what the real issues are and what their proposals are so we can discuss them.
“Until we do, we can’t make progress.”
Mrs May added: “No-one wants a good deal more than me, but the European Union should be clear – I will not overturn the result of the referendum, nor will I break up my country.
“We need serious engagement on resolving the two big problems in the negotiations and we stand ready.”
Mrs May said it was clear that the two sides in the Brexit negotiations remained “a long way apart” on the status of the Irish border and the future trade relationship and that departure without a deal could not be ruled out.
She made a pledge to the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK that their rights would be protected in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
And she promised the people of Northern Ireland that, if there was no deal, the Government would “do everything in our power to prevent a return to a hard border”.
Mrs May spoke in 10 Downing Street in front of two Union flags (Jack Taylor/PA)
Mrs May insisted that she was still seeking a deal with the EU, and said that the blueprint agreed by the Cabinet at her country residence in July continued to represent “the best way” to protect jobs in Britain and Europe and to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
She blamed the EU side for failing to explain its objections to her blueprint, which would see the UK enter a free trade area for goods with a “common rulebook”, or to put forward its own proposals.
“Yesterday Donald Tusk said our proposals would undermine the single market,” she said.
“He didn’t explain how in any detail or make any counter-proposal. So we are at an impasse.”
Mrs May said that Brussels’s “backstop” proposal to keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs area unless a better solution can be found was “unacceptable” to Britain because it would create a customs border down the Irish Sea.
After the rejection of her proposals in Salzburg, she said she was ready to set out a new alternative backstop which “preserves the integrity of the UK” and delivers on the commitment not to establish new regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK without the agreement of the Executive and Assembly in Belfast.
Mrs May said: “As I told EU leaders, neither side should demand the unacceptable of the other.
“We cannot accept anything that threatens the integrity of our union, just as they cannot accept anything that threatens the integrity of theirs.
“We cannot accept anything that does not respect the result of the referendum, just as they cannot accept anything that is not in the interest of their citizens.”
In a possible sign that she was smarting over Mr Tusk’s mocking Instagram photo, showing him offering her a cake with the caption “Sorry, no cherries”, Mrs May made a point of stressing that she had always shown respect towards her EU counterparts.
“Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect,” said the PM. “The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it.”
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