Leaders to offer May warm words on Chequers plan but demand Irish border solution
The EU27 are planning a “carrot and stick” approach to Brexit at an upcoming summit, offering Theresa May warm words on the Chequers plans to take to the Conservative conference alongside a sharp warning that they need a plan for Northern Ireland within weeks.
The twin statements from the EU leaders at the meeting in Salzburg later this month would seek to give the British prime minister some evidence of progress in negotiations on the future trade deal as she seeks to fight off the threat of rebelling MPs.
However, under the plans being discussed among the 27, a shot would be fired across May’s bows on the issue of a backstop for Northern Ireland, an issue on which officials and diplomats are becoming increasingly frustrated.
May committed in December, and again in March, to agree on a plan for avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This would come into force if a trade deal or bespoke technological solution that could do the same job was not available by the end of the transition period, on 31 December 2020.
The EU27 fear the British are seeking to push back the resolution of this issue into the transition period, after the UK has left the EU on 29 March 2019.
Tempers have flared in recent negotiations over the issue and member states want to send a clear warning that they are not willing to let the issue remain unresolved.
One EU diplomat said: “The first part will say that the Chequers proposals were welcomed and that we are talking about the future: an unprecedented deal which will be our best effort at an internal market in goods.
“That is all true and it is something for her [May] to have at conference, that she needs. The second statement will be a very stern warning. It is clear that the British game plan is to push this back, but they need to step on it now, and stop playing around.”