The Latest: EU would bend on Brexit if UK moves ‘red lines’
LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union (all times local):
The European Union’s Brexit negotiator says the 27 EU nations discussing the divorce terms with Britain would be willing to adapt their stance if the departing member shifts on key issues.
Michel Barnier said Friday: “We are ready, I am ready, to adapt our offer should the U.K.’s red lines change.”
Britain has said it doesn’t want to be part of the EU’s unified market and customs union with the remaining member states so it can develop independent trade, economic and social policies once it leaves the EU next year.
Barnier says huge obstacles remain as the negotiations on a settlement continue. British Prime Minister Theresa met with her divided Cabinet on Friday to try to hammer out a plan for future trade with the EU.
As the British government bickers, European Union leaders are growing impatient and have warned Prime Minister Theresa May she must present concrete and “realistic” proposals within weeks if there is to be a deal by the time the U.K. leaves on March 29, 2019.
The bloc has repeatedly warned Britain that it cannot “cherry pick” the benefits of EU membership, such as access to the customs union and single market, without accepting the responsibilities, which included allowing free movement of EU citizens to the U.K.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier stressed Friday that Britain can’t treat the single market as a “big supermarket.”
The EU is also demanding certainty on the future of the border between Britain’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — the U.K.’s only land frontier with an EU member. Britain has promised to maintain an invisible border, free of customs posts and other infrastructure, but have not said how that can be achieved.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing resistance from hard-core Brexit backers in her Conservative government as she gathers her fractious Cabinet to hammer out a plan for future trade with the European Union.
The 30-strong Cabinet is being sequestered Friday inside the prime minister’s Chequers country retreat — without their phones — to discuss a compromise plan that May hopes will unite the government, and be accepted by the bloc.
It’s a tall order.
With just nine months to go until the U.K. leaves the bloc, May says the government has “a great opportunity — and a duty” to agree on a plan.
But pro-Brexit ministers including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have doubts about her proposal, which would see Britain stick closely to EU rules for trade in goods.