Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

European Union ministers continue to talk Brexit despite little progress in recent months

European Union ministers continue to talk Brexit despite little progress in recent months

Reacting to the white paper announcement, Labour Brexit spokesman Paul Blomfield said: "It is deeply disturbing that, after yet another meeting, the Cabinet still can not agree on the most fundamental Brexit issues".

"No significant progress" has been made in negotiations with London since March, the EU's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told 27 ministers from the bloc on Monday, according to the chairwoman of the talks.

She said "substantial progress" needs to be made on the issue of the Irish border by June, saying that the solutions proposed by the United Kingdom government so far would "mean a hard border".

German, Austrian and Dutch ministers all echoed the same concern, saying Britain has not made its position clear in detail on parts of the negotiations.

"It is an opportunity to set out clearly to both a domestic and an European Union audience the reasoning behind our approach, including where we think it is clearly in the EU's interests as well as our own'. The clock is ticking", German EU Minister Michael Roth told his EU peers. "As soon as possible they need clarity about what will happen when Brexit takes place".

Reduced to a friendly third country at best has angered the British government, which sees it as a negotiating ploy in the protracted Brexit negotiations that face a fall deadline if Britain's March 29, 2019 departure date is to proceed smoothly.

Theresa May will attempt to seize the initiative over Brexit by next month, setting out her detailed blueprint for Britain's future links with the European Union.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has branded the Prime Minister's idea "crazy" and he and other detractors of the partnership concept instead contend that new technology and trusted trader schemes can provide for smooth cross-border trading. Both sides worry that reinstating a physical border between EU-member Ireland and Britain's province of Northern Ireland - including to manage customs - could revive violence there. It would make a lot of other problems that are hard to solve right now...

Barnier's statement has come before a government Brexit meeting, called by the British Prime Minister on May 15.

The EU has suggested a "backstop" proposal, in which only Northern Ireland would stay in a customs union with the EU post-Brexit, but London says that would effectively create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

"The EU is playing hardball with us", Gyimah said. "I very much hope we will agree but there are no guarantees, unfortunately".

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