The Latest: Former UK PM warns over May’s Brexit approach
LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Brexit negotiations (all times local):
Former British Prime Minister John Major says the U.K. government’s self-imposed “red lines” on Brexit have made a favorable outcome impossible.
Major, who was Conservative prime minister between 1992 and 1997, says the U.K. is heading toward an EU exit that will leave it poorer and weaker unless the government changes course.
In a speech on Wednesday, Major said Prime Minister Theresa May should reject the “ultra-Brexit option” and drop her opposition to remaining in the EU’s single market or customs union.
The government says it must leave the customs union to negotiate new trade deals around the world.
But Major said “to risk losing our trade advantages with the colossal market on our doorstep is to inflict economic self-harm on the British people.”
He said Parliament should have the right to accept or reject a Brexit deal with the EU, “or put the issue back to the British people” in another referendum.
Ireland has welcomed the European Union’s first draft of a Brexit agreement but stands ready to discuss other options once Britain explains how it thinks trade and travel can be kept smooth across the Northern Ireland border.
The Irish government said Wednesday that the EU draft contains “the necessary legal provision to implement the backstop” that would avoid a hard border between Britain’s territory and the EU member state.
Lacking input from Britain on border options, the text keeps Northern Ireland within the EU’s customs union, creating a virtual border in the Irish Sea between the territory and mainland Britain.
Ireland said “we are looking forward to the further detail” which British Prime Minister Theresa May might provide at a speech planned for Friday.
Prime Minister Theresa May says a European Union proposal for the Irish border after Brexit would “undermine the constitutional integrity of the U.K.” and is unacceptable to Britain.
The EU’s draft withdrawal agreement includes a proposal to effectively keep Northern Ireland inside the bloc’s single market and customs union in order to ensure there will be no hard border with Ireland, an EU member state.
It says the plan would only come into effect if no other solution to the border issue can be found.
May said Wednesday that the plan would “undermine the U.K. common market” by putting an effective border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. She said “no U.K. prime minister could ever agree to it.”
But May said Britain will work with the EU on its proposals and remains “absolutely committed” to avoiding a hard border.
European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has unveiled the first draft text of the EU’s legal agreement so far with Britain on the country’s departure from the bloc next year.
Barnier said that “if we want to succeed in these negotiations, and I want to succeed, we must accelerate.”
The 120-page document, which is subject to negotiation and will probably change significantly, sets out the progress made between the sides in legal language.
It would form the basis of the final Brexit withdrawal treaty, which must be adopted before Britain leaves at midnight on March 29, 2019. The text refers to a transition period that would help ease Britain out from March 30 next year until Dec. 31, 2020.
The Irish border is once again a stumbling block in Brexit talks, with anti-EU politicians accusing rivals of using it to keep Britain from fully leaving the European Union.
Britain and the EU agreed in December that the all-but-invisible border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would remain open after Brexit in 2019, but they left it unclear how that would happen in practice.
On Wednesday the EU will publish a 120-page draft agreement, translating the December commitments into legal language.
Pro-Brexit politicians in Britain are balking at reports that the EU will say that, if other solutions are not found, Northern Ireland should continue to adhere to EU rules.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accused Brexit opponents of using the border to tie Britain’s hands “so we cannot really leave the EU.”