UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — European Union and British officials will resume tough talks on Brexit on Monday after Brussels dismissed as insufficient a proposal by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to avoid an exit from the European Union without an agreement on May 31.
“The UK proposals do not constitute a basis for an agreement,” European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertu said on Friday.
The British government sees its offer Wednesday as a “fair and logical compromise.”
“We want an agreement, and negotiations will continue Monday based on our offer,” a British spokesman said.
But time is running out for both sides to reach an agreement.
The prime minister wants Britain out of the European Union by the end of the month at all costs.
European leaders will decide at their next summit in Brussels on October 17 and 18 whether conditions exist to agree on a new postponement of the Brexit, and whether Britain will leave the bloc with or without an agreement.
– One week deadline-
“Everything should go quickly and any negotiations should start early next week,” a European diplomat told AFP. “We will assess next Friday whether it is possible to bring the positions closer together.”
The European Union refuses to call the ongoing talks “negotiations”, stressing its preference for compliance with the Brexit deal struck by former Prime Minister Theresa May but British lawmakers have rejected it three times.
The main sticking point between the two sides is the “safety net” for Northern Ireland, which is aimed at avoiding the re-establishment of effective borders between British territory and EU member Ireland and the maintenance of the 1998 peace agreement in Ireland and the unity of the European Common Market.
Johnson’s current plan to find an alternative to the safety net stipulates that Northern Ireland will leave the EU Customs Union like the rest of the UK, but still enforce European laws on the transport of goods, including food, with the creation of a “regulatory zone” on the island of Ireland provided that it agrees. Parliament and the executive authority of Northern Ireland on it.
That would eliminate surveillance between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but that would mean divergent rules between the British territory of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
But the border plan is unacceptable to the European Union, which he said contains “problematic” points and should be re-acted.
The EU also rejects part of the plan, which says the proposal must be approved by the Northern Ireland government and parliament every four years, which is problematic for Dublin because a group of MPs or any Northern Irish party can raise a veto against it.
– Delay Option-
If neither of these items, or both, is agreed, it will be difficult for talks between the EU and Britain to reach a negotiating stage.
Johnson promised to implement Brexit on October 31 despite a recent law passed by British lawmakers that would force him to demand a delay in order to avoid an exit without agreement with its economic and social repercussions.
The British press speculated that Johnson might seek to torpedo any request for delay, contrary to his will by asking a European Union member state to break the consensus needed in the bloc for a stand-off.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban could intervene in favor of Johnson if the latter were forced to ask Brexit to be postponed, the Daily Telegraph said Saturday.
Any postponement requires the unanimous approval of EU member states, and any departure from it would be sufficient to derail the resolution.
“So far, there is no request for a postponement, and there is no room for speculation,” a Hungarian foreign ministry source told AFP.
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