EU's Barnier rejects Theresa May's Brexit 'backstop' proposals

A ferry arriving at the Port of Dover’s Eastern Docks in England

The Brexit Secretary is set to return to Brussels next week for talks with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

The note said: "The UK is clear that the temporary customs arrangement, should it be needed, should be time limited, and that it will be only in place until the future customs arrangement can be introduced". "The temporary backstop is not in line with what we want or what Ireland or Northern Ireland need".

"It's so small and there are so few firms that actually use that border regularly, it's just beyond belief that we're allowing the tail to wag the dog in this way", he said.

Mrs May said the backstop would only be necessary if "for technical reasons" the new customs arrangements were not up and running by January 1, 2021 when the transition period expires.

"We will send a telegram congratulating Prime Minister Cameron: 'Dear David, friend of ours, we are happy that the British people have made the right choice regardless of your propaganda".

The document published by the United Kingdom states that the backstop option "will be only in place until the future customs arrangement can be introduced" and that "the United Kingdom expects" this to happen by the end of December 2021.

Mrs May believes this would keep the Irish border open, while avoiding creating a customs border between Northern Ireland and the British mainland, as the EU's backstop proposal would.

The alternative was for Northern Ireland to have a "special status", distinct from the rest of the UK.

Many Tory Brexiteer MPs fear the backstop, which involves very close alignment with the customs union and single market, will in fact become the default long-term solution. "Is it an all-weather backstop?"

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Namely whether Britain should leave the EU's customs union, as May wants, or stay closely aligned with the bloc's border regime, as some members of her party want.

He told Sky News: "There has never been a period where government have been asked to do such complex things as we're being asked to do around the Brexit process - disentangle Brit after 40 years of European Union membership - and there are, I imagine, a number of issues that will still come up that will be hard. How does that fit with the requirements of our Value-Added Tax system?"

"Michel Barnier has confirmed today that discussions will now continue on our proposal". But EU leaders warned that imposing a time limit would undermine its value.

"It simply does not make sense for this great country - which, let's be clear, already is "global Britain" - to pursue a course that we know will damage our economy and the life chances of generations to come".

A campaign funded by Hungarian-US billionaire George Soros on Friday published a "roadmap" for a second vote on Britain's European Union membership as confusion reigns over the country's post-Brexit relationship with the bloc.

"Backstop means backstop", Mr Barnier said, echoing Mrs May's own soundbites.

But he said: "Theresa May and her team have agreed to the backstop in the March agreement and there is no question of backtracking on that".

But the customs boss defended the figure when he appeared before MPs and said a "similar" amount would be lost if the government fails to secure an agreement with Brussels.

It was not clear whether the European Union would accept the proposal.

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