Liam Fox: UK must be able to withdraw from Irish backstop

Blanche Robertson
November 10, 2018

The Democratic Unionist Party said it appeared the Prime Minister was prepared to break her promise never to agree a deal which could separate Ireland from the UK.

"We are still in negotiations, and on that basis we don't know when and if this will conclude", a spokesman said, adding that a much-rumoured Cabinet meeting to allow ministers to sign off the deal had not been scheduled.

But Mr Coveney told the Irish Canada Business Association conference in Dublin: "I would urge caution that an imminent breakthrough is not necessarily to be taken for granted, not by a long shot".

"Repeatedly people seem to make the same mistake over and over again, assuming that if the British cabinet agrees something, well, then that's it then, everything is agreed".

But Brexiteers want the British government to have the power to unilaterally end it.

May's spokesman said ministers agreed at cabinet on the need for an "effective mechanism" within the backstop to ensure "that the United Kingdom can not be held in the arrangement indefinitely".

The main obstacle to an agreement is how to keep goods flowing smoothly across the border between the Republic of Ireland, an European Union member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. All parties have committed to avoid a "hard border" with costly, time-consuming border checks that would hamper business.

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The global trade secretary said on Thursday the government had "an instruction from our voters to leave the EU".

Leaving without an agreement would mean some "hiccups in the first year", but the United Kingdom would have "all the rights and controls over our own destiny", he added.

British prime minister Theresa May has invited ministers to review the text of a withdrawal agreement.

Fox and Davis are among a number of MPs to have put pressure on May to publish the legal advice she has received from attorney general Geoffrey Cox on the strategy for Northern Ireland.

May will still need to get the deal, including the so-called Irish border backstop plan, approved by her Cabinet and later by Parliament - where she's likely to face considerable opposition.

Amid speculation a deal is closed to being agreed, May's proposed backstop would see the entire United Kingdom effectively agree to remain in the customs union.

The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator told political allies Thursday to beware the rise of populist nationalism in Europe, warning of a "Farage in every country".

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