Brexit talks with EU to proceed after climbdown by UK prime minister
9 December 2017
The European Union (EU) will likely allow the UK to move on to the next stage of discussion on the terms of Brexit, focusing on a future trading relationship.
President Jean-Claude Juncker signed a 15-page “progress report” yesterday, allowing EU negotiators to recommend negotiations proceed next week. This followed UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to accept all the central conditions demanded by the EU.
Friday’s early morning meeting between May and Juncker took place after hours of horse-trading with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the main unionist party in Northern Ireland, to arrive at a formulation also acceptable to the Republic of Ireland—an EU member state.
In the process, May fudged the question of relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic in a way that gives the Democratic Unionist Party the ability to determine the viability of any final agreement reached.
May first went to Brussels on Monday, but could not secure an agreement with Juncker because the DUP—on whose 10 MPs the Conservatives rely for a majority–rejected a formulation designed to prevent the establishment of a “hard” customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The DUP regarded May’s proposed negotiating position–that there would be “regulatory alignment” with the EU post-Brexit—as a threat to Northern Ireland’s unity with the rest of the UK.
A subsequent declaration by Brexit Secretary David Davis that this formula would apply to the whole of the EU, did not satisfy DUP leader Arlene Foster, who insisted on six “substantive amendments” to the proposed agreement. The most important are contained in paragraphs 49 and 50, which…