Theresa May narrowly survives another Brexit crisis with "backstop plan" on customs

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Brexit talks have been stalled in Brussels over the question of how to avoid a hard border at the Irish frontier.

Less than half of all people in Northern Ireland consider themselves British, according to a new survey.

Michel Barnier said in Brussels on Friday that the UK's newly-published "backstop" proposals - an emergency measure created to avoid the emergence of a hard border in Ireland - would not work if they sought to keep the whole of the United Kingdom in the customs union.

That third "backstop option" was legally codified in a protocol contained in the Draft Withdrawal Treaty in late February. She also pledged to "explore workable solutions on the Ireland question".

"We are today at a time of decisions and choices".

But Mr Barnier said: "Our backstop can't be extended to the whole UK. Why?" What is feasible with a territory the size of Northern Ireland is not necessarily feasible with the whole UK.

What's more, the majority of people would identify themselves as Irish, Northern Irish or European before they would British.

The Brexit Secretary is set to return to Brussels next week for talks with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier. The UK is yet to suggest what elements of the single market it would stay aligned to.

Scott Pruitt's abuses of power, ranked
Public officials are prohibited from receiving unpaid services from employees or for using their office for private gain. That business opportunity turned out to be Pruitt's desire to acquire a fast-food franchise for his wife.

Sources close to Mr Davis earlier told Sky News he believed Mrs May was attempting to bypass the Brexit cabinet sub-committee and send the backstop document to Brussels without their approval, but she insisted this was not the case.

Negotiators from both sides have claimed to want to avoid a "hard border" between the Republic and Northern Ireland, for the sake of peace.

The future of the border between European Union member Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit is one of the most hotly contested issues in the negotiations, with many on both sides of the border wanting to keep the current free-flowing frontier open. "We need regulatory alignment to avoid a hard border".

The Good Friday Agreement has regulated on the border issues, but some of May's proposals put that in threat.

The inclusion of the December 2021 date in the latest government document on the Temporary Customs Arrangement, as it has become officially known, is thought to have been a response to demands for a clear time limit from Brexit Secretary David Davis. Notwithstanding the actual feasibility of this deadline, the ambiguity of that formulation raises two possible scenarios.

And he said Mrs May's insistence that the arrangement must be time-limited meant that it could not be regarded as a true backstop, providing a fallback option if the UK's preferred permanent solution could not be agreed.

Incidentally, that is an agreement that Conservative government was able to negotiate with itself; it remains to be seen whether the European Union 27 will agree.

The BPA is urging the government to speed up progress with the planned customs white paper to clarify the future relationship with the EU.

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