PM May confirms she will bring new proposal for Northern Ireland

Blanche Robertson
September 24, 2018

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May listens during a news conference in central London January 5, 2015.

Mr Varadkar held a meeting with Theresa May at the summit in Salzburg where the Prime Minister said the United Kingdom would be coming forward with new proposals on the so-called backstop arrangements on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland in a bid to break the deadlock.

May told European Union leaders that she wouldn't back down and demanded they show her country "respect" in talks.

The backstop is an arrangement which will apply if the Irish border can not be kept as frictionless as it is now in the context of a wider deal. Instead, it led to humiliating newspaper headlines in Britain on Friday as May was told to come up with fresh ideas.

But he declined to say whether they would be published before the ruling Conservative Party's annual conference which starts on September 30.

She said: "A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it".

The Sun reported on Saturday that the prime minister was pushing for an alternative set of regulatory arrangements for Northern Ireland but that this was being blocked by the DUP, which is propping up her government.

The pound fell as much as 1.6 percent against the dollar, the most on a closing basis since June a year ago, even though May also revealed new details of a possible offer on the Irish border to resolve the impasse.

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Diplomats say European Union negotiators are hoping that once May gets past the political difficulties of her Conservative Party conference in early October that significant progress can be made towards a deal, which leaders could endorse on Oct. 18.

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

She said: "Our red line from day one of these negotiations has been that there can be no border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain".

But EU member Ireland and the rest of the EU have demanded a "backstop" guarantee that if that happens, then Northern Ireland would have a special status - effectively remaining inside the EU economic space, but at the cost of new differences with the British mainland, which both May and her vital parliamentary allies from the province say threaten British sovereignty.

Mrs May is in a hard negotiating position because her slender majority in parliament relies on the support of Northern Ireland's pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party.

The EU proposal would keep the North separate from the rest of the United Kingdom for a transition period during which more customs mechanisms could be defined.

The Alpine summit began with a warning from EU Council President Donald Tusk that Britain s offer on post-Brexit trade ties and Ireland - the two sticking points in the talks - must be "reworked". Even so, the European Union had treated it as a "step in the right direction", he said.

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