The U.K.’s two post-Brexit customs proposals to solve the Northern Ireland border issue have been rejected by the EU. Earlier this week, a report on The Telegraph, indicated that the proposal by Theresa May have been rejected.
Senior EU diplomatic sources told The Telegraph that Mrs May’s plan for avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland was subjected to a “systematic and forensic annihilation” this week at a meeting between senior EU officials and Olly Robbins, the UK’s lead Brexit negotiator.
“It was a detailed and forensic rebuttal,” added the source who was directly briefed on the meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. “It was made clear that none of the UK’s customs options will work. None of them.”
Politico argues that this situation raises the stakes for British MPs who are revisiting the idea of staying in a traditional customs union with the EU despite the opposition of Prime Minister Theresa May and her Cabinet.
On Thursday a group of senior MPs introduced a House of Commons motion calling on the UK government to seek “an effective customs union” with the EU as part of the negotiation over the U.K.’s future relationship with the bloc. It will be voted on by MPs next Thursday.
The customs issue cuts to the core of the biggest obstacle to clinching an agreement on the U.K.’s orderly withdrawal: How to prevent the re-creation of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. A “backstop” proposal agreed by the two sides would effectively keep Northern Ireland inside the EU’s customs union. May has declared that outcome “not acceptable” but she signed up to it on the understanding that the U.K. would be able to bring forward alternative proposals.” A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: “We have been clear that we will protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market. That commitment was set out in December’s joint report which also includes our guarantee of avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. “As the PM’s letter to Donald Tusk said, we have made our position on aspects of the draft Commission Protocol clear. We have agreed that the areas covered in the draft must reflect those that meet our shared commitments. And we are continuing an intensive work programme to engage on all the scenarios set out in the joint report.”