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Brexit: Theresa May begins critical 48 hours with plea to EU leaders (The Times)

A picture of Theresa May TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS

September 19 2018

Theresa May will appeal to other EU leaders today to ditch “unacceptable demands”, including keeping Northern Ireland in the single market as the price of a Brexit trade deal.

The prime minister is said to regard the next 48 hours as critical in persuading EU leaders to overrule the European Commission on the key issue of the Irish border.

Mrs May will call on them to “evolve” their negotiations over a dinner in Salzburg today. She is expected to agree with Donald Tusk, the European Council president, that goodwill will be needed to avoid a disorderly Brexit.

Her key message will be that London could never accept a “backstop” that resulted in Northern Ireland having different customs arrangements to the rest of the UK.

The UK is not seeking to enjoy all the rights of EU membership without any of the obligations, Mrs May will say, an outcome she acknowledges would also be unacceptable. “What we are proposing is a fair arrangement that will work for the EU’s economy as well as for the UK’s without undermining the single market,” she is expected to say. “This would be balanced by a strong security relationship to keep all our citizens safe from threats at home and abroad.”

Mr Tusk will appeal to other leaders to “take into account” the deep Tory divisions over Mrs May’s Chequers compromise that seeks to avoid a hard border in Ireland by committing Britain to remain aligned to EU rules. Speaking before the informal summit in Austria, Mr Tusk urged leaders to “act responsibly” to “avoid a catastrophe” in the shape of a no-deal Brexit.

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