World News

Theresa May to face crunch talks with Donald Tusk ahead of speech

Theresa May to face crunch talks with Donald Tusk ahead of speech

The EU this week published a draft law codifying the divorce terms struck with Britain in December, which includes plans to avoid any customs checks on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Donald Tusk, the European council president, said he was "absolutely sure that all the essential elements of the draft will be accepted by all".

He also demanded Mrs May didn't prey on any divisions among the 27 member staes over what to offer the United Kingdom, adding: "I would like to underline here again that Mr Barnier has the full support of both the European Union institutions and the EU27".

The plans envisage an area spanning the whole island of Ireland with no internal borders and free movement of goods.

Tusk said if May didn't like the proposal, she should come up with an alternative.

May reacted angrily to the proposal that Northern Ireland - part of Britain - stay in a customs union with the EU if there is no better solution, warning she would not accept anything that risked the constitutional integrity of her country. He says the text should have come as "no surprise" and was just a legally-worded assessment of what had been agreed in the December negotiations.

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May insisted there was no disagreement with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the Irish border question. "The prime minister should now follow Labour's lead".

May is in an nearly impossible position, say analysts, having to try to negotiate not only a deal with Brussels but to negotiate one that can be agreed by both wings of her party fractured between ultra-Brexiters, who are opposed to Britain remaining in a customs union, and those who want to retain close ties to the EU.

He restated his view that the proposals for future trade that May is expected to make on Friday - to maintain a mixture of common and different regulations with the European Union - were not acceptable.

The Prime Minister gathered her top ministerial team today (March 1) to discuss the contents of a major speech she will give tomorrow to detail the "end state" withdrawal deal Britain wants to hammer out with Brussels.

Tory infighting broke to the fore again as former prime minister Sir John Major's call for MPs to have a free vote on the final Brexit deal, with the option of putting it to the public in a second referendum, drew a strong attack from ex-party leader Lord Michael Howard.

"If you start off a negotiation with red lines like no customs union, no single market, no regulatory alignment, no ECJ, well then you run out of options", he said. "The British governing system has evolved differently; it is a workable fudge that hardly makes sense at all".


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