If the EU and U.K. are to reach a Brexit deal, “neither side can demand the unacceptable of the other,” Theresa May warned in German newspaper Die Welt Wednesday.
As EU leaders gather for an informal summit in Salzburg, Austria, the British PM previewed an appeal she will make over dinner Wednesday evening for her colleagues to relax their demand for a so-called backstop solution for Northern Ireland. She will have around 10 minutes to speak to EU27 leaders, who are due to discuss Brexit on Thursday in her absence.
Negotiators intend to write an insurance clause into the Withdrawal Agreement to prevent the future need for a hard border on the island of Ireland. The EU wants Northern Ireland to remain effectively within the bloc’s customs territory to avoid the need for customs checks at the border. But May argues this would create an economic and constitutional divide in the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland — something she said no U.K. prime minister could accept.
“We are near to achieving the orderly withdrawal that is the essential basis for building a close future partnership,” May wrote. “To come to a successful conclusion, just as the U.K. has evolved its position, the EU will need to do the same.”
She added: “Neither side can demand the unacceptable of the other, such as an external customs border between different parts of the United Kingdom.”
Last night, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier signaled a willingness to “improve” the terms of his backstop proposal. Meanwhile, the U.K. is set to put forward its own proposals, including a demand for democratic consent for Northern Ireland for any changes in regulations that would be imposed upon it.