Theresa May: very good progress made since Salzburg, teams of negotiators working "very hard". We've solved most of the WA issues.
Asked directly if she would seek a one year transition, May says: "What we will be doing is looking at the issues relating to the backstop on NI, I believe it is possible by working together to find a resolution to that issue...
"and a resolution that ensures we are able to move forward with the full package, with the future partnership as well. Considerable progress has been made since Salzburg, by working instensively over the next weeks I believe we can achieve a deal"
Varadkar on transition extension idea: "Any extension to the transition period couldn't be a substitute for the backstop. We would still need to have that, but perhaps it would allow people to have greater confidence that it would ever need to be invoked.
"As the EU and UK agreed in writing back in March [the backstop] must apply unless and until... It can be temporary by all means but it can't have an expiry date. It can only be temporary unless and until we have an alternative agreement that also ensures... no hard border"
"That's what we agreed in writing, the EU and the UK back in March. So this is not just now an issue of substance, it's also an issue of trust."
@davidallengreen@StefaanDeRynck@andrew_lilico@CER_Grant@TomMcTague But it remained on the table right thru until Dec 4, when “no regulatory divergence” became “continued regulatory alignment”. Because London insisted an FTA & tech wd take care of the Irish border (despite the incredulity of Dublin & Brussels), the backstop became Option C.
Some details emerging now about the one year transition + two stage backstop idea @MichelBarnier has briefed member states on in Luxembourg.
Let’s recall what @theresa_may said in the Commons statement:
There might be a gap between the end of the transition and the beginning of a future trade deal - that would be when the original backstop would have to kick in.
Instead Theresa May wants a Temporary Customs Arrangement to fill the gap instead, so the NI-specific backstop *doesn’t* have to kick in.
Coveney post mtg with @MichelBarnier: We cannot sign up to + I don’t believe Michel Barnier would ever ask EU countries to sign up to, a backstop that is not there unless + until something better is agreed.If you set a date in future when a backstop falls then it’s not a backstop
Coveney on Brendan Howlin claims that EU is considering postponing or deferring the backstop: “There is no sense from any conversations I’ve had with EU foreign ministers, that anybody is questioning or undermining the EU position on the Irish backstop,quite the opposite in fact”
“I’m not sure what sources Brendan Howlin is getting his information from, but I suspect they are not as credible as the assurances we’re getting from the chief negotiator today.”
Main takeaway from @theresa_may Commons statement:
Lots of conciliatory words about the EU "working with us to respond to the very real concerns we had on their original [draft] proposals," and tributes to both teams of negotiators...
Also, May is conciliatory on need for backstop: "Both the UK + EU share a profound responsibility to ensure the preservation of the GFA, protecting the hard won peace and stability in NI, and ensuring that life continues essentially as it does now...."
May again says the future FTA "should provide for solutions to the unique circumstances in NI, in the long term." The backstop might be needed, however, if there's a gap between the FTA beginning and the transition ending.
Irish foreign minister @simoncoveney says the UK had made "commitments in writing" that there be a backstop to avoid a hard border, and that that backstop could not be time limited.
Speaking in Luxembourg Coveney said the UK made commitments “in writing” both in last December and in March that there would be a backstop in place, “unless and until” another solution appeared to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
“Those commitments have been made in writing by the British government, and what we’re saying is we want no more and no less than the follow through of those commitments. That’s what needs to happen.”
Here’s a quick take on where we are: a draft text worked on last week, with buy in from EU + UK negotiators, included a UK-wide customs arrangement. That wd allow references to NI being part of the EU’s customs territory to be airbrushed out, to make it more palatable to the UK
However, the UK demand for the UK-wide backstop for customs to be time limited is still being fiercely resisted by Brussels and Dublin, who say the backstop must be “unless and until” something better comes along (Dublin also insists the UK signed up to that in Dec and March)
But there appear to be other reservations that the UK-wide backstop, being tucked into the Withdrawal Agreement, will give the UK a de facto competitive advantage this side of an FTA - the usual “level playing field” issues.
I understand a draft text worked on by EU and UK negotiators late last week included a proposal for Britain to remain in a customs union with the EU, in order to break the deadlock over the Irish backstop - but there was no time limit.
The draft also watered down references to NI being part of the EU’s customs territory. However, NI wd still be part of the single mkt for goods under the backstop.
Not clear if new clauses on a time limit were included over the weekend. It sounds like they weren’t, hence no deal this evening.
Lots of briefing ex Downing St tonight on “historic” backstop deal being close. My sense is that the level of optimism in Bxl is not much different to that expressed by @MichelBarnier yesterday, ie things moving but still a good bit to go (“a mountain to climb”, acc to one source
All the action is around the UK-wide customs backstop, or temporary customs arrangement. London wants it strictly time-limited, IE says it has to be all-weather. So duration, rules, legal base all need to be worked out...
As well as how it will impinge on EU’s own trade deals with third countries (ie, are they negotiating for 27 or 28 countries?).
Here's a brief thread on where we're at with Brexit:
My understanding is that @MichelBarnier will NOT produce a draft on the Political Declaration on Wed as had been expected. At the very most it'll be an annotated paper (headings, no text) and even then it won't be adopted Wed
This is all due to the "tunnel" factor, ie things being so sensitive ahead of next weeks EU summit that all sides go into a blackout to avoid leaks + eruptions. The next step is the UK's backstop proposals but even that will be teased out in talks rather than formal publication
Both the EU + UK may decide to try and nail down the Withdrawal Agreement first, then focus on the Political Declaration between the Oct + Nov summits, but that has an obvious disadvantage for the UK...
Full no-holes-barred comments from @eucopresident Donald Tusk:I always try to present the EU's position honestly and without beating about the bush. Telling the truth even if difficult and unpleasant...that's how it was in Salzburg and that's also how we will work in coming days.
Tusk: we want to focus on practical and realistic ways of minimising the damage caused by Brexit on both sides of the channel.
"Emotional arguments that stress the issue of dignity sound attractive, but they do not facilitate agreement. Let us remember that every actor in this process has their dignity, and confrontation in this field will not lead to anything good.
Breaking: Irish source says Theresa May indicated during this morning's bilateral meeting with Leo Varadkar that she does not believe it is possible that a deal on the Irish backstop can be reached in time for the October European Council. [thread]
The source described the meeting as "useful" and said there was "an open exchange of views" between both sides, with the Irish delegation emphasising that the time was short and "we need to get to the stage where we can consider a legal text" on the backstop.
The source described British proposals so far as "only an outline, and we haven't seen specific proposals from the British side." Theresa May was "keen to bring negotiations to a conclusions as soon as possible...She said she doesn't think it's possible by the Oct summit."
Breaking: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says Theresa May is "working hard" on the backstop issue and describes her as "very sincere" as he arrives alongside French President @EmmanuelMacron to the Salzburg summit h/t @NRKno@philip_lote
President Macron: : We listened yesterday to Theresa May. We all know the proposal made in Chequers. We will have a discussion with Mr Barnier. We have to remain united and consistent with what we want.
Macron: “I think Theresa May made some proposals. We have progress. But for sure what we need is a Withdrawal Agreement with the backstop for our Irish friends, and for the integrity of the whole single market.”
For those interested in Pope Francis’ inflight remarks on homosexuality: “There have always been homosexuals, people with homosexual tendencies. Sociologists say, if its true, that in times of epochal changes, some social, ethical phenomena increase; one of them would be this...
“This is an opinion of some sociologists. Your question is clear: what would I say to a father who sees that his son or daughter has that tendency? I would say first to pray, don’t condemn, dialogue, understand, make space for them. Let them express themselves...
”At what age does this concern (inquietudine) of the child express itself? Its important. One thing is when it shows itself in a child. There are many things one can do with psychiatry, to understand things. Another thing is when it shows itself after 20 years of age or so.
Putin: re the 12 indicted. President Trump mentioned it, I will look into it. We have an existing treaty between US and Russia, mutual assistance on criminal cases, it’s in full effect, works efficiently.
This treaty has specific legal procedures. We can offer that an appropriate commission headed by Mueller, he can use this treaty and send a request to us and we can interrogate this individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes.
We can permit official reps of the US, including members of Mueller’s team and they can be present at the questioning. The Americans should reciprocate, including officers of US intelligence who have done illegal stuff in Russia.
The ERG amendments run headlong into the June European Council conclusions on the backstop: “[the Council] recalls the commitments undertaken by the UK in this respect in Dec 2017 and March 2018, and insists on the need for intensified efforts so that the Withdrawal Agreement...
“...including its provisions on transition, can be concluded as soon as possible in order to come into effect on the date of withdrawal. It recalls that negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far are respected in full.”
The ERG amendment states: “It shall be unlawful for HMG to enter into arrangements under which Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain.”
.@HughRBennett on the Irish backstop + what wd happen if the UK diverged from the common rulebook: "The fact that the govt has already accepted the EU’s flawed logic on the issue indicates they are taking the position that it is imposs to keep the border open if the UK diverges.
"Indeed, the early signs from Brussels are that, despite the monumental concessions already made by the UK, the EU will still try to force some sort of backstop protocol into the deal.
Here's what the March EU Negotiating Guidelines say about Ireland: The European Council recalls that other issues still require agreement and negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far are respected in full...
...and welcomes in this respect Prime Minister May's written assurances notably regarding Ireland/Northern Ireland.
Here's what Theresa May just told the HoC: First there is what is provided for in the EU’s negotiating guidelines in March of this year. This amounts to a standard free trade agreement for Great Britain, with NI carved off in the EU’s customs union and parts of the single market.
ECJ Poland case: Advocate General says that Irish High Court is required to postpone the execution of a European arrest warrant only where it finds not only that there is a real risk of flagrant denial of justice on account of deficiencies in the Polish system...
...but also that the accused will be exposed to such a risk. Even assuming that there is, in Poland, a real risk of flagrant denial of justice on account of the govt reforms of the judiciary this doesn't mean that NO Polish court is capable of hearing any case whatsoever...
Therefore, in order to show that the individual concerned is exposed to the risk of flagrant denial of justice, it is necessary to establish that there are particular circumstances relating either to that person or to the offence in respect of which he is being prosecuted...