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Theresa May to urge EU leaders to drop 'unacceptable Brexit demands' at crunch meeting

3 min read

Theresa May will today call on European leaders to drop their "unacceptable demands" as she seeks to defuse the ongoing Brexit row over the Northern Ireland border.

The Prime Minister will head to Salzburg for a crunch meeting with her EU counterparts as the two sides continue to lock horns over Brussels's"backstop" plan to effectively keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and single market after Brexit.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier last night hinted at a compromise as he said: "We are ready to improve this proposal."

Mrs May - whose own Chequers plan for a "frictionless" border between Northern Ireland and the Republic has been given a frosty reception in Brussels - will urge leaders to "evolve" their stance and insist that the UK's proposals are workable.

She is expected to say: "What we are proposing is a fair arrangement that will work for the EU’s economy as well as for the UK’s without undermining the single market.

"This would be balanced by a strong security relationship to keep all our citizens safe from threats at home and abroad."

Speaking on Tuesday ahead of the two-day gathering, Mr Barnier - the top EU negotiator - said he wanted to "de-dramatise" the Northern Ireland border issue and vowed to "respect the territorial integrity" of the UK.

He said: "We are ready to improve this proposal. Work on the EU side is ongoing...

"What we're talking about is not a border, not a land border, not a sea border. It's a set of technical checks and controls, just about all of which cannot be put other than in a physical place in Northern Ireland.

"So I hope that on the basis of simple, practical, objective provisions we'll be able to find a position whereby this improved backstop can be acceptable.

"It will not in any case take the form of a border because we respect the territorial integrity of the UK, and we respect the constitutional order of the UK."

The EU will next month revise its backstop proposal - which is intended only to be used if the UK's own plans are deemed unworkable - in a bid to break the deadlock.


Mrs May, who is facing intense pressure from Conservative Brexiteers to ditch her Chequers plan, meanwhile struck an upbeat tone in an interview with the Express, insisting that Britain's withdrawal agreement with the EU was "virtually agreed".

She said: "What I hear from other EU leaders is a recognition of that timetable and a recognition of the importance of showing we can sit down and come to an agreement.

"I’m not going to be pushed away from doing what is necessary to get the right deal for Britain."

The Prime Minister also heaped fresh scorn on calls for a second Brexit referendum - dubbed a 'People's Vote' by campaigners.

She told the Express: "People weren’t saying, 'it’s the choice of the public except if we disagree with the answer we’ll ask them again'.

"It was the public’s choice. My answer to the People’s Vote is that we’ve had the people’s vote – it was the referendum – and now we should deliver on it."

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