It is a proposal that is not even on the table, and reverses Theresa May‘s determined position – but EU officials are still urging her to grasp an offer from the Labour opposition to break an impasse over the terms of Britain’s EU exit.
The Conservative prime minister gave no sign during her visit to Brussels on Thursday (Feb 7) of softening her rejection of a permanent EU-UK customs union, as Labour proposes, European Union sources said.
But for many in Brussels, the possibility of Labour support for an orderly Brexit that avoids the likely chaos of “no-deal” is the only way out of the deadlock, and justifies an attempt to influence Britain’s highly tribal internal politics.
“We are still very much in the party politics perspective. The only hope is that, at some point, the threat of “no-deal” disruptions would mobilise minds in the UK,” an EU diplomat briefed on Mrs May’s talks in Brussels said on Friday (Feb 8).
“For now, May is still looking at her own party rather than a nationwide consensus.” The EU says London agreeing to closer ties with the bloc after Brexit would largely obviate the need for contentious “backstop” provision, meant to keep the Irish border open under any and all circumstances.
It believes that might be acceptable to the Northern Irish unionists propping up Mrs May’s government, as well as at least some Labour lawmakers, and thus secure a substantial parliamentary majority for the divorce deal before Britain leaves on March 29.
Given the EU’s opposition to the concessions on the backstop that Mrs May is currently demanding, the only alternative appears to Brussels to be a “no-deal” Brexit, with no transition period to soften the economic rupture.
‘THE ONLY WAY OUT’
“By that time, hopefully, Mrs May will have worked with Labour and get Labour votes. It’s the only way out. There will be no illusions on what will happen in the last week of March if they don’t vote for it,” another EU diplomat said. Read more