EU says UK government should agree opposition demands on Brexit
The European Union has insisted the only way for Britain to secure a withdrawal agreement with the bloc before its departure date at end of March would be for the government in London to reach a compromise with the opposition.
EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday that British Prime Minister Theresa May could break a current political stalemate on Brexit by agreeing to demands of the opposition Labour Party for a permanent EU-UK customs union after Brexit.
Barnier, speaking in a news conference in Luxembourg, said May could agree to terms proposed in a recent letter by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to win the required parliamentary support for the draft Brexit deal she signed with the EU in November.
“I found Corbyn’s letter interesting in tone and in content ... Something has to give on the British side,” said Barnier.
May replied to Corbyn’s letter on Sunday saying that joining a permanent customs union with the EU after Brexit would prevent Britain from signing its own independent trade deals.
Lawmakers in the British parliament roundly rejected May’s Brexit deal last month, forcing her to seek concessions from the EU on a controversial clause in the agreement which sets out rules for future administration of the Irish border.
The EU has consistently rejected demands for replacing the so-called Irish backstop with alternative arrangements. Brussels has said since the historic vote in the House of Commons on January 15 that it is only ready to tweak a political declaration accompanying the Brexit deal which outlines general terms for future EU-UK ties.
“The withdrawal agreement which we agreed with Theresa May’s government ... remains the best way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the UK,” said Barnier, warning that time was running out for Britain to avoid a disorderly Brexit on March 29, which is the date Britain is officially expected to leave the EU.