Hold tight for a Brexit breakthrough, May tells Cabinet

Jan Cross
November 8, 2018

Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini and chief European Union negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier said on Tuesday that a solution to the Irish border issue is crucial for Brexit.

Following the Cabinet meeting, Mrs May's spokesman said: "The Prime Minister said she was confident of reaching a deal".

Mrs May's official spokesman declined to be drawn on a timescale for agreement with the EU.

The backstop arrangement would come into force should a future EU-UK trade relationship fail to avert a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Cabinet considered options put forward by May's attorney general on ways to give the European Union an assurance that if talks on a permanent solution to the Irish border fail, a so-called backstop agreement would kick in.

U.K. Cabinet ministers expect to be locked in a room to study the latest options for a Brexit deal in strict secrecy on Tuesday as Theresa May redoubles efforts to get a deal this month, according to people familiar with the matter.

"(May) said that while 95 percent of the withdrawal agreement had been concluded, on the Northern Ireland backstop there are a number of issues that we still need to work through and these are the most hard", her spokesman told reporters.

"Anything that weakens or softens the Irish Government's position as to the baseline protections that we need is something to be avoided", she said.

Writing in the Sun, Mr Johnson said Brussels would always use the prospect of a hard border in Ireland to keep the United Kingdom "forever" in its orbit.

Downing Street later said there is no further cabinet meeting scheduled this week in order for ministers to reach an agreement on Brexit, although one could be held "at the appropriate moment".

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The prime minister updated her cabinet on Tuesday about the progress of negotiations with Brussels, amid signs a divorce agreement could finally be in sight.

Parliament would then vote on the deal in December.

"On the back benches, there will be no escaping the need to read and understand any proposal in microscopic detail".

The conversation followed a Daily Telegraph report that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has privately demanded the right to pull Britain out of the Irish backstop after just three months.

Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, has emerged as a key figure in the search for a legally-watertight solution to the problem of the Irish backstop.

May is anxious that accepting the deal would lead to a rebellion from the hard-Brexit faction in her party.

Still, it's not only ministers Mrs May has to worry about.

But some of Britain's biggest corporate names have had enough of the government's handling of the negotiations.

Their efforts were likely bolstered again on Sunday when Mr Arron Banks, the insurance businessman whose millions of pounds of donations to a pro-Brexit campaign are being investigated by police, gave a typically combative interview to The Andrew Marr Show.

He said that the Irish Government was working hard to try to reach an agreement by the end of the year but added that it can not countenance the idea of a three-month limit to the backstop agreement. Not with a deal apparently so close at hand.

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