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Brexit – PM statement: 21 September 2018

Following the debacle of the recent meeting with other EU leaders in Salzburg Theresa May, today, issued the following statement:

Yesterday, I was in Salzburg for talks with European leaders.

I have always said that these negotiations would be tough – and they were always bound to be toughest in the final straight.

While both sides want a deal, we have to face up to the fact that – despite the progress we have made – there are two big issues where we remain a long way apart.

The first is our economic relationship after we have left.

Here, the EU is still only offering us two options.

The first option would involve the UK staying in the European Economic Area and a customs union with the EU. In plain English, this would mean we’d still have to abide by all the EU rules, uncontrolled immigration from the EU would continue and we couldn’t do the trade deals we want with other countries.

That would make a mockery of the referendum we had two years ago.

The second option would be a basic free trade agreement for Great Britain that would introduce checks at the Great Britain/EU border. But even worse, Northern Ireland would effectively remain in the Customs Union and parts of the Single Market, permanently separated economically from the rest of the UK by a border down the Irish Sea.

Parliament has already – unanimously – rejected this idea.

Creating any form of customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would not respect that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, in line with the principle of consent, as set out clearly in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. It is something I will never agree to – indeed, in my judgement it is something no British Prime Minister would ever agree to. If the EU believe I will, they are making a fundamental mistake. Anything which fails to respect the referendum or which effectively divides our country in two would be a bad deal and I have always said no deal is better than a bad deal.

But I have also been clear that the best outcome is for the UK to leave with a deal. That is why, following months of intensive work and detailed discussions, we proposed a third option for our future economic relationship, based on the frictionless trade in goods.

That is the best way to protect jobs here and in the EU and to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, while respecting the referendum result and the integrity of the United Kingdom.

Yesterday Donald Tusk said our proposals would undermine the single market. He didn’t explain how in any detail or make any counter-proposal. So we are at an impasse.

The second issue is connected to the first. We both agree that the Withdrawal Agreement needs to include a backstop to ensure that if there’s a delay in implementing our new relationship, there still won’t be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

But the EU is proposing to achieve this by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the Customs Union.

As I have already said, that is unacceptable. We will never agree to it. It would mean breaking up our country.

We will set out our alternative that preserves the integrity of the UK. And it will be in line with the commitments we made back in December – including the commitment that no new regulatory barriers should be created between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK unless the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree.

As I told EU leaders, neither side should demand the unacceptable of the other.

We cannot accept anything that threatens the integrity of our union, just as they cannot accept anything that threatens the integrity of theirs.

We cannot accept anything that does not respect the result of the referendum, just as they cannot accept anything that is not in the interest of their citizens.

Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it.

At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals.

So we now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are and what their alternative is so that we can discuss them. Until we do, we cannot make progress.

In the meantime, we must and will continue the work of preparing ourselves for no deal.

In particular, I want to clarify our approach to two issues.

First, there are over 3 million EU citizens living in the UK who will be understandably worried about what the outcome of yesterday’s summit means for their future.

I want to be clear with you that even in the event of no deal your rights will be protected. You are our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues. We want you to stay.

Second, I want to reassure the people of Northern Ireland that in the event of no deal we will do everything in our power to prevent a return to a hard border.

Let me also say this.

The referendum was the largest democratic exercise this country has ever undergone. To deny its legitimacy or frustrate its result threatens public trust in our democracy.

That is why for over two years I have worked day and night to deliver a deal that sees the UK leave the EU.

I have worked to bring people with me even when that has not always seemed possible.

No one wants a good deal more than me.

But the EU should be clear: I will not overturn the result of the referendum. Nor will I break up my country.

We need serious engagement on resolving the two big problems in the negotiations. We stand ready.

Salzburg Summit – No Deal ?

An informal meeting of EU leaders was held in Salzburg on 19-20 September 2018 to discuss internal security, migration and Brexit.

It was hosted by Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor of Austria, which currently holds the Presidency of the European Council. Donald Tusk, President of the European council chaired the meeting and together with Jean-Claude Juncker President of the European Commission represented the EU.

Prior to the meeting, Donald Tusk made the following statement on Brexit negotiations:

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The Brexit negotiations are entering their decisive phase. Various scenarios are still possible today, but I would like to stress that some of Prime Minister May’s proposals from Chequers indicate a positive evolution in the UK’s approach as well as a will to minimise the negative effects of Brexit. By this I mean, among other things, the readiness to cooperate closely in the area of security and foreign policy. On other issues, such as the Irish question, or the framework for economic cooperation, the UK’s proposals will need to be reworked and further negotiated. Today there is perhaps more hope, but there is surely less and less time. Therefore, every day that is left, we must use for talks. I would like to finalise them still this autumn. This is why, at tomorrow’s meeting of the twenty-seven, I will propose calling an additional summit around mid-November.
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During dinner on the 19 September, the Prime Minister was graciously allowed 10 minutes to present her plan, agreed by the cabinet and known as the Chequers Deal, to the other 27 EU Leaders. They will not engage directly in negotiations with the PM in order to preserve the role of Michel Barnier as their chief negotiator.

The meeting ended with a working lunch on the 20 September, in an EU27 format to discuss Brexit. This was an opportunity to review progress in the talks with the UK and to discuss the way forward.

Donald Tusk made a statement, at the end of the meeting, during which he included the following comment on Brexit negotiations:

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At our EU27 working lunch today we had a good discussion on Brexit, which once again reconfirmed our full unity. Let me highlight three points.

First, we reconfirmed that there will be no Withdrawal Agreement without a solid, operational and legally binding Irish backstop. And we continue to fully support Michel Barnier in his efforts to find such a model.

Second, we agreed to have a joint political declaration that provides as much clarity as possible on the future relations. Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work. Not least because it risks undermining the Single Market.

Third, we also discussed the timetable for further negotiations. The moment of truth for Brexit negotiations will be the October European Council. In October we expect maximum progress and results in the Brexit talks. Then we will decide whether conditions are there to call an extraordinary summit in November to finalise and formalise the deal.
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Theresa May appealed directly to her European counterparts to drop unacceptable Brexit demands that she warned could rip Britain apart, urging the bloc to respond in kind to her serious and workable plan.

We both agree that there can be no withdrawal agreement with no legally operative backstop. But that backstop cannot divide the UK into two customs territories, and we will be bringing forward our own proposals shortly

So with the rejection by the EU of Theresa May’s Chequers Plan it is now looking more likely for the UK to leave the EU without any agreed plan for the future relationship between the UK and the EU. It would also mean any formal Withdrawal Agreement between the 2 sides which would also be abandoned.

The hardline approach being taken by the EU indicates the desire to punish the UK for leaving in an attempt to dissuade other members from following the same path.

Leader after leader lined up to reject the key elements of the Chequers plan and there appears to have been a coordinated “ambush” on Theresa May by fellow leaders to brief against her at the end of the conference. Donald Tusk even mocking Theresa May with a quip concerning “cherries and cake” on his instagram account.

Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement

The White Paper on Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union sets out how the Government will implement the final Withdrawal Agreement we reach with the EU in UK law.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/legislating-for-the-withdrawal-agreement-between-the-united-kingdom-and-the-european-union

The White Paper confirms that the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill will:

  • be the primary means by which the rights of EU citizens will be protected in UK law
  • legislate for the time-limited implementation period
  • create a financial authority to manage the specific payments to be made under the financial settlement, with appropriate Parliamentary oversight

Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union (PDF)

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