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Brexit: Barnier questions May's 'backstop plan'

08 June 2018

The publication of the backstop triggered a major Cabinet row with Brexit Secretary David Davis, who pushed for it to be made clear that the proposal - which would come into effect if no other solution to the Irish border problem is found - was strictly temporary.

Brussels has given a lukewarm response to the latest British Government proposal on how to deal with the Border after Brexit. "Is it an all-weather backstop?" he said.

"That is positive and a step forward".

In a letter from Mrs May to her MPs, the Prime Minister admitted that her plan for a backstop arrangement was "flawed" - and hit a notably different tone than the one she adopted to address her Remain supporting MPs earlier this week.

"We must also remember that the backstop will only be used as a last resort".

"Clearly, a great deal of work remains to be done and this needs to be the highest priority for all sides in the weeks ahead".

"If we remain in it we will accept European Union laws, collect European Union taxes and have ourselves a trade policy where we are without any say - a vassal state".

"The UK expects the future arrangement to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest" - a year after the end of the post-Brexit transition period.

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Mrs May is facing a possible defeat in the House of Commons next week on an amendment that would require her to try to negotiate a permanent customs union with the EU.

"Some Brexiteers are cheering this non-win over the "expected" leaving date".

At the same time the United Kingdom would be able to strike free trade agreements with other countries.

In its manifesto Best for Britain argues that both sides of the Brexit debate should welcome a second poll in less than three years to finally settle the question of the UK's membership of the European Union and that the issue was diverting time and energy from other political concerns.

A source close to Mr Davis said: "Obviously, there's been a back and forth on this paper, as there always is whenever the government publishes anything".

The prime minister also held separate face-to-face discussions in her parliamentary office with the two other leading Brexiteers, foreign secretary Boris Johnson and global trade secretary Liam Fox.

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, welcomed the plan, saying on Twitter that it would be examined with three questions in mind.

The UK will propose the customs arrangement - widely known as a "backstop" plan - to ensure people and goods can still move between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit occurs in March next year.

Brexit: Barnier questions May's 'backstop plan'