May pleads for support, says Brexit deal is almost done
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May sought to scotch a growing rebellion against her Brexit plans Monday, saying a divorce deal with the European Union is 95 percent complete and urging fellow lawmakers to “hold our nerve” during the difficult last push in negotiations.
May told the House of Commons that “the vast majority” of issues had been settled, including the status of Gibraltar, Britain’s territory at the tip of the Iberian Peninsula.
She said there is just “one real sticking point left” — the border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
“We cannot let this become the barrier to reaching the future partnership we all want to see,” May said.
May faces growing dissent from her political opponents — and, more worryingly, her own Conservative Party — over her blueprint for separation and future relations with the bloc.
Grumbling has grown since she suggested at an EU summit last week that Britain could remain bound by the bloc’s rules for two years or more during a transition period after it leaves on March 29, to help solve the border problem.
London and Brussels agree there must be no customs posts or other barriers that could disrupt businesses and residents on both sides of the border and undermine Northern Ireland’s hard-won peace process.
But they do not agree on how to achieve that.
The EU has proposed keeping Northern Ireland in its customs union after Brexit, eliminating the need for border checks.
But Britain says that is unacceptable because it would mean checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
May said the EU had shifted and was “actively working with us” on a British counter-proposal that would keep the whole U.K. in a customs union with the bloc.
Britain says any such arrangement must be temporary, while the EU insists the border “backstop” guarantee can’t have a time limit.
May said she believed a solution could be found, but “serving our national interest will demand that we hold our nerve through these last stages of the negotiations, the hardest part of all.”
Britain and the EU say they remain hopeful of striking a deal this fall so that relevant parliaments can approve it before Brexit day.