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13th Aug 2022

May rules out new Brexit vote as final talks speed up

  • Theresa May making a statement on Brexit earlier in the week. (Photo: Number 10 - Flickr)

British prime minister Theresa May on Wednesday (3 October) in her speech to the Conservative Party conference ruled out once again Northern Ireland remaining in the EU's customs union to secure a Brexit deal, as a final push in negotiations is planned in the coming days.

May has also ruled out a second Brexit vote saying it would be undemocratic. "A second referendum would be a politicians' vote. Think of what it would do to democracy. Politicians telling people they got it wrong and to vote again," she said.

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May also said that she will never agree to "carving out" Northern Ireland from the UK, to keep it in the EU's customs union after Brexit next March 2019 in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland between the EU and UK.

The premier also dismissed the idea of remaining in the bloc's customs union, and said freedom of movement will end "once and for all" after Brexit.

May said she cannot rule out a no-deal scenario, as a divorce deal needs to be agreed in around two weeks in order that there is enough time for ratification in the UK and European Parliament.

"Leaving without the deal would be a bad outcome for the UK and the EU," she warned, however, claiming, "it would be tough at first, but the resilience and ingenuity of British people would see us through".

As May gave her speech to end a fractious annual conference of her Conservative party - where hard Brexit rebels have challenged her efforts to stay close to the EU - officials and diplomats in Brussels and London gear up for a final push in negotiations.

Talks have been essentially at a deadlock since March with only six months remaining until the UK leaves the EU.

One key issue is the how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and if the UK can come to an agreement over the EU's backstop guarantee plan that would kick in after Brexit.

The UK is expected to bring new proposals on the details of how checks can be made on goods while at the same time maintaining a frictionless border.

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar will meet on Thursday with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels, and Barnier will meet with leaders of Northern Irish parties on Friday, according to Barnier's schedule.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is also expected in Brussels next week.

The EU will also finalise its position on the trade relationship after Brexit, after EU leaders made it clear to May in Salzburg in September that her plan will not work.

Despite UK expectations for a detailed proposal, the EU is likely to keep the legally non-binding document short and leave the bulk of details to be worked out during the next phase of negotiations with London after the UK leaves the bloc.

On 10 October EU ambassadors will review the progress and discuss the future relations in preparations for the 18 October summit.

An extraordinary summit is possible in November if the outline of a divorce deal is agreed in October.

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