Dutch PM 'cautiously optimistic' about progress on Brexit talks

Kenny Grant
October 12, 2018

The EU has launched a direct sales pitch to Northern Ireland businesses in an attempt to drive a wedge between the Democratic Unionist party and Theresa May over the backstop solution for the Irish border in Brexit negotiations.

The Prime Minister is proposing the United Kingdom remains in a customs union with the EU after Brexit, leaving the country unable to sign new trade deals, until a new arrangement is finalised.

While London wants to regulate that by a future trade deal with the European Union, the bloc insists on an emergency fix in case negotiating new relations takes longer, or fails.

"Supporting the Prime Minister to get the best deal possible, that's my job". "I think Brexit brings no added value, this is a negative negotiation, it is a lose-lose game, where nobody stands to win", Barnier said in the speech that was met with a standing ovation from small business leaders.

But this could see checks on goods travelling from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland - what Foster described as "an effective one-way turnstile".

Commenting on the Irish backstop, Barnier said the EU's plan to keep Northern Ireland in the Single Market and customs union would help keep the border invisible - a goal of both sets of negotiators. The sides will continue negotiations through the weekend with hopes for a breakthrough as early as Monday.

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"Why give ourselves this problem in a field of the global economy where we are globally preeminent?" he said. Another summit in November is planned to close the deal.

In May's own Conservative party, some eurosceptic lawmakers want to vote against her approach to exiting the European Union as it would not bring a sharp enough break from the bloc in their view.

The deal believed to be on the table involves keeping the whole United Kingdom in an "arrangement" that effectively preserves the existing EU customs union, ensuring the goods continue to move freely over the Irish land border regardless of the future trade relationship between London and Brussels.

An angry DUP, whose 10 MPs prop up the Conservative Government, threatened to vote down the Autumn Budget, and last night sent a warning shot by abstaining in a vote on a Labour amendment to the Agriculture Bill.

If the DUP votes against the budget, which will be presented on October 29, this could trigger a confidence motion and a general election if the government loses.

The EU suggests Northern Ireland stay aligned with its customs union and single market during that period, and there are signs the British government could accept elements of this plan. Michael Russell will be there representing the Scottish Government and is expected to once again sound the alarm about the damage to Scotland's economy a hard or no-deal Brexit would do.

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