Mon | Feb 17, 2020

EU, UK demand Brexit compromise over Irish border

Published:Thursday | September 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (centre), arrives at the informal EU summit in Salzburg, Austria, yesterday.


The European Union and Britain clashed Wednesday over the biggest obstacle to concluding Brexit talks, with both sides urging the other to compromise just weeks before they must seal a deal.

At a summit in Salzburg, Austria, EU Council President Donald Tusk warned Britain that key parts of its Brexit offer - notably keeping the Irish border open - are not satisfactory and must be revised.

But Prime Minister Theresa May insisted that her solution to keep goods flowing seamlessly between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and EU member state Ireland is the "only credible and negotiable plan" on the table.

Tusk, though, highlighted shortfalls in Britain's position on avoiding a hard border, as well as on economic cooperation, saying that "the UK's proposals will need to be reworked and further negotiated".

He ramped up pressure on May - already fending off in-fighting within her Conservative Party - by saying that time was fast running out to seal a Brexit deal. Britain will leave the EU at midnight on March 29, but both sides are desperate to reach an agreement in coming weeks to leave parliaments time to ratify any accord.

"Every day that is left we must use for talks," Tusk said.

He added that he wants a deal finalised this autumn and urged leaders to hold another summit in mid-November as part of a roadmap to get the job done.

Earlier this week, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the leaders' October 18 summit in Brussels would be "the moment of truth".

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the host of the Salzburg summit, backed May in saying that "both sides need to compromise."

"We have to do everything to avoid a hard Brexit," he said.

The Irish border conundrum clearly makes that more difficult.

Both sides have pledged to ensure there's no hard border around Northern Ireland, but they disagree on how to get there.