May to hold Brexit War Cabinet to agree backstop plan

Theresa May

Commenting on the Irish backstop, Barnier said the EU's plan to keep Northern Ireland in the Single Market and customs union would help keep the border invisible - a goal of both sets of negotiators.

Next Wednesday (17 October) over dinner the EU-27 leaders will hope to seal the outlines of a withdrawal agreement, ahead of the Brexit "exit" date less than six months away in March 2019. Another summit in November is planned to close the deal.

The Northern Irish party that British Prime Minister Theresa May's government relies on for support says it will consider backing a vote of no-confidence if May agrees to European Union checks on goods entering the region post-Brexit.

Barnier said that the EU remained open to staying in a customs union with the whole of the United Kingdom, making a hard border unnecessary. May has ruled this out.

"And we are still open - we are still open - to the idea of having a customs union with the UK".

May's Conservative party has relied on the DUP's 10 MPs to pass legislation since losing its majority in the House of Commons in the June 2017 election.

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The news comes after the Democratic Unionist Party threatened to vote against the Budget, and potentially bring down the Government, in opposition to a backstop plan that would treat Northern Ireland differently to the rest of Great Britain.

The European Union is doing all it can to ensure checks on goods moving across Northern Ireland's borders would be made "in the least intrusive way possible", for example on ferries, at ports or in factories of origin, he said.

For industrial goods, he said it could be done by "market surveilance authorities", on-site in the companies.

Besides the Irish border issue, the key areas still to be negotiated are the geographical indications of products and the governance of the implementation of the deal.

That is likely to be enough to get a deal over the line at next week's European Council, which has been dubbed the "moment of truth" for Brexit negotiations. "It will not, and it can not be business as usual", he said, adding that the European Commission has set up plans to help businesses.

"However, while not a direct parallel, it is worth noting that the "Three-Day Week", introduced in early 1974 in response to energy shortages and increased militancy on the part of the miners, was associated with a fall in output of a little under 3% that quarter". Then, EU leaders advisors are meeting on Monday in preparation for the summit.

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