Thu, Nov 22, 2018 - Page 7 News List

May in Brussels for talks with Juncker

MERKEL WARNING:Everyone knows how difficult the debate in Britain over Brexit is, but the UK cannot set unilateral terms for leaving the EU, the chancellor said yesterday


British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday traveled to Brussels for Brexit talks, trapped between her colleagues who want her to re-write the deal and European leaders who say they will walk away if she does.

May was scheduled to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday evening in an effort to make progress on an outline of the future trade deal the two sides want to strike.

She wants EU leaders to sign off on the 585-page exit agreement as well as the future partnership paper at a special summit in Brussels on Sunday.

However, euroskeptics in her Conservative Party want her to rip up key parts of the deal and demand more concessions from the EU before the plan is signed off.

The opposition to the deal has gone down badly with EU leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, amid concern from diplomats that Sunday’s summit will need to be canceled if May pushes for more changes.

Merkel yesterday told German lawmakers that the UK cannot set unilateral terms for leaving the EU.

Addressing lower-house lawmakers in Berlin, Merkel gave short shrift to Brexit while pleading for stronger bonds between EU nations and criticizing go-it-alone policies as false patriotism.

“We also know how difficult the debate in Britain is,” she said. “What’s been important to us is that Britain can’t decide unilaterally when it ends the customs union, but rather has to define that timeframe jointly with the EU.”

Believing that “you can solve everything on your own” is “the purest form of nationalism, not patriotism,” Merkel said to applause. “Patriotism is when you place German interests in the service of win-win situations.”

Time for delays is running out. Britain’s withdrawal from the EU is now just over four months away.

May is staggering on, wounded at home by a succession of damaging resignations from her Cabinet from ministers who cannot stomach her deal.

At the same time, rank-and-file Tories are trying to drum up enough support for a formal attempt to oust her as their leader. For now, their plot appears to be faltering.

Even so, with no automatic majority in the British parliament, May is facing a colossal task to persuade enough members of the House of Commons to support her deal in a crunch vote expected next month.

If she loses that vote, the UK will be on track to crash out of the EU with no deal.

House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Chairman Damian Collins yesterday told BBC’s Today program that he is going to vote against May’s deal in its current form, adding his name to a list of Tories who will not back it.

If it does fail in parliament, he said May should call either an election or another referendum.

May’s talks with Juncker are to focus on the so-called future partnership, the trade and security relationship that will replace EU membership. The details of that accord are to be negotiated during a 21-month transition period that starts on March 29.

However, the terms of the separate exit treaty are already contentious.

At a Cabinet meeting in London on Tuesday, May’s ministers discussed alternative plans for the most difficult issue in the talks: the backstop guarantee for avoiding a customs border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

On Tuesday night, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up May’s minority government, refused to vote with the government in protest over May’s Brexit deal for Ireland.

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