EU ′ready to improve′ Brexit proposal | News | DW | 19.09.2018
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EU 'ready to improve' Brexit proposal

The European Union has said it is ready to address key British concerns over Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May wrote in a German newspaper that both sides were close to an orderly Brexit deal.

The EU is "ready to improve" its proposal on how to manage the border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland. The bloc's chief negotiator's comments on Tuesday came ahead of an informal two-day summit in Austria that will focus on Brexit and migration.

With just over six months to go before the UK is due to leave the European Union, the EU and Britain remain at loggerheads over the Irish border and the nature of a future relationship, especially over trade.

Both sides want to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will leave the EU under Brexit.

Read more: London Mayor Sadiq Khan joins call for second Brexit referendum 

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the EU was ready to improve its offer on an "insurance policy" backstop arrangement in the absence of a deal on the Irish border before Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019.

"Our proposal for the backstop on Ireland and Northern Ireland has been on the table since February," said Barnier. "We are ready to improve this proposal."

The EU negotiator said he was "clarifying which goods arriving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK would need to be checked and where, when and by whom these checks could be performed. We can also clarify that most checks can take place away from the border, at the company premises or in the market."

Watch video 01:30

Barnier: Brexit deal with London 'possible'

May: Deal is close

British Prime Minister Theresa May had rejected a previous plan, arguing it would sever Northern Ireland from Britain.

"Neither side can demand the unacceptable of the other, such as an external customs border between different parts of the United Kingdom — which no other country would accept if they were in the same situation," May wrote in the Wednesday edition of Die Welt newspaper.

May called for "goodwill and determination" from both sides to avoid a hard Brexit, which could unleash economic troubles in the EU and UK.

"We are near to achieving the orderly withdrawal that is an essential basis for building a close future partnership," May wrote. "To come to a successful conclusion, just as the UK has evolved its position, the EU will need to do the same." 

May also wrote that there should be "frictionless movement of goods" between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

May is expected to try to convince EU leaders of her so-called Chequers plan at the summit in Austria on Wednesday and Thursday. The meetings come as she is under pressure from some pro-Brexit conservatives over her plans. 

'Limiting Brexit damage in our shared interest'

The EU has argued Britain can't pick and choose parts of the single market and piggyback on Northern Ireland's special status.

"Limiting the damage caused by Brexit is in our shared interest. Unfortunately, a no-deal scenario is still quite possible," European Council President Donald Tusk said Tuesday. "But if we all act responsibly, we can avoid a catastrophe."

Both sides are hoping to reach a final Brexit deal by November in order to provide enough time for it to be passed by parliaments in both the UK and the EU.

Other issues that still need to be hammered out include the future trade relationship and a joint political declaration for the future relationship between Britain and the EU.

cw/cmk (Reuters, dpa)

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