Quantcast
Connect with us

Northern Irish rejection threatens Brexit deal as EU leaders meet

Published

on

Britain’s efforts to agree an amicable divorce from the European Union were hanging by a thread Thursday as leaders headed to Brussels for a crunch summit.

EU and UK negotiators had worked overnight on a compromise withdrawal deal that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hoped to present to his counterparts.

But, as dawn broke over Brussels, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party dramatically rejected the accord, which would see the British-ruled province remain under EU customs and Value Added Tax (VAT) rules.

ADVERTISEMENT

It was not immediately clear if this meant that Johnson would have to back away from the draft text, as his government is propped up by DUP support. But it greatly complicates his chances of getting it though the British parliament.

The pound, which had been buoyed earlier in the week by rumors of a deal, tumbled after the DUP statement.

“Will have to consider our options in the light of the situation,” a senior EU official said. “Maybe we have a deal or maybe not.”

EU leaders will be loath to approve another withdrawal agreement only to see it rejected in London, as happened with the last Brexit deal.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) we were willing to give more time to the negotiators, still today we don’t know how things evolve,” the EU official said. “So far member states have demonstrated incredible patience.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Before setting off for Brussels, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that London had been ready to negotiate and put “concrete proposals on the table” but added the teams were “still not at the goal”.

AFP/File / Tolga AKMEN Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to leave the EU on October 31 with or without a deal

The DUP’s patience, however, seems to have run out.

“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT,” the party said.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

– Economic disruption –

ADVERTISEMENT

In Brussels, EU officials were expecting more contacts with British representatives before Johnson and the other 27 EU leaders arrived for the two-day European Council summit.

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker spoke with Johnson by telephone to see what could be done to save the deal. “Every hour and minute counts,” his spokeswoman said.

Before the DUP statement there had been guarded optimism that this time, just two weeks before Britain is due to quit the bloc on October 31, the groundwork was there for a deal to avoid calamitous economic disruption.

ADVERTISEMENT

AFP/File / Paul Faith The Irish border is the key sticking point in negotiations

“An agreement appears within reach but it is not guaranteed,” French deputy foreign minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said. “We’re hoping for a deal and if it can come in the coming hours, that would be perfect.”

Under the measures to replace the so-called “Irish backstop” in the previous failed agreement, the plan would see Northern Ireland remain British legal territory but trade under EU regulations.

This is intended to prevent the return of a hard border with EU-member Ireland. But, because it would involve some customs and tax checks with the rest of the UK, it raised the hackles of the pro-British DUP.

AFP/File / Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD

EU negotiator Michel Barnier said late Wednesday there had been “good progress, and work is ongoing” as he briefed a late-night gathering of leading MEPs.

ADVERTISEMENT

But one EU source told AFP the putative agreement “is politically fragile in London” because of Johnson’s reliance on votes from the DUP and hardline Conservative eurosceptics.

And there were doubts that a final legal text could be completed before the end of the summit, although leaders may give political approval to open the way for a binding agreement to be finalised in the weeks to come.

The leaders also hope the summit will rise above the Brexit mire and focus on the EU budget debate, bids by North Macedonia and Albania to start talks to join the bloc, and the crisis in relations with Turkey.

– A deal to avoid ‘chaos’ –

ADVERTISEMENT

The Brexit issue is notionally first on the agenda, with the EU’s 27 other leaders to hear Johnson speak then retire to mull their response. But the issue could be delayed to Friday if the deal text needs more work.

Johnson has vowed to take the UK out of the European Union on October 31, with or without a divorce agreement to maintain orderly economic ties with its former partners.

 


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Pence spokesman denies Sondland testimony linking him to Ukraine scheme

Published

on

Vice President Mike Pence scrambled away from testimony from EU ambassador Gordon Sondland linking him to the Ukraine scandal.

The ambassador told a House impeachment inquiry that Pence was notified of concerns that military aid to Ukraine had been held up until the foreign government announced an investigation of Joe Biden.

“The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations," said Pence spokesman Marc Short.

President Donald Trump had been scheduled to meet Ukraine's new president Volodymyr Zelensky on Sept. 1 in Warsaw, but Sondland said the president bowed out to oversee hurricane response and sent Pence instead.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

‘It’s all over’: Trump shouts Sondland quotes at reporters before wandering off without taking questions

Published

on

President Donald Trump did not answer questions while leaving the White House nearly an hour late for an event in Texas.

Trump departed during questioning of Ambassador Gordon Sondland, whose testimony earlier in the day had implicated the president, Vice President Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani and others.

“I don’t know him very well. I have not spoken to him much. This is not a man I know well. He seems like a nice guy though," Trump said of Sondland.

Trump also disputed Sondland's characterization that he had once been in a bad mood.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Ex-Republican Justin Amash roasts his former party for disastrous impeachment hearings: ‘Is there a mercy rule?’

Published

on

Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) had some fun at the expense of his former party on Wednesday in the midst of European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland's damning testimony during House impeachment hearings.

After watching Sondland testify that there was an explicit quid-pro-quo agreement linking launching investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden with holding a face-to-face meeting between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Amash declared that the EU ambassador "has eviscerated the Trump/Republican narrative."

He then jokingly asked if there was "a mercy rule for congressional hearings" given how badly the hearings have gone for Trump so far.

Continue Reading
 
 
Help Raw Story Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1 and go ad-free.
close-image