Theresa May to update MPs on Brexit talks progress following fresh Irish border stalemate
Theresa May is to update MPs on the deadlocked Brexit negotiations amid claims that the UK leaving the EU without a deal is “probably inevitable”.
In an unusual move, the Prime Minister will make a statement to the Commons just 24 hours after hopes of a breakthrough in the talks were raised and then dashed.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab flew to Brussels for urgent face-to-face talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, but returned soon afterwards when the pair failed to achieve agreement over the so-called "backstop" arrangement to keep the Irish border open.
Reports this morning say talks broke down after the EU demanded what UK officials have branded a “backstop to the backstop” – which would see the original proposal, that was rejected by the UK, back on the table.
Mrs May has said the backstop, which effectively maintains customs union membership until a permanent solution is found, should apply to the whole of the UK and be time-limited.
However the Press Association reported that the EU is insisting it should only apply to Northern Ireland, an arrangement which the Prime Minister has said is "unacceptable" and has been rejected by the DUP, who she relies upon for her Commons majority.
Following the latest breakdown in talks between both sides, the Northern Irish unionists' MP Sammy Wilson said that a no-deal Brexit was “probably inevitable”.
He told the Belfast Newsletter: "Given the way in which the EU has behaved and the corner they’ve put Theresa May into, there’s no deal which I can see at present which will command a majority in the House of Commons...
“I think that anybody looking at it objectively would say that what is on offer from the EU is a far worse deal than a no deal, and therefore she’d be mad to be railroaded into accepting it.
Speaking this morning, the Prime Minister's spokesman said she had decided to address Parliament directly "to provide an update to MPs" on the latest state of play.
He added: "We have made real progress in a number of key areas, however there remain a number of unresolved issues relating the backstop.
"The EU and the UK are both clear that they want to secure a good deal and that’s what both sides are working towards. We remain confident of getting a deal because it is in the interests of both the UK and the European Union."
However, the spokesman went on: "The EU continues to insist on the possibility of a customs border down the Irish Sea.
"This is something that Parliament has already unanimously rejected and is not acceptable to the Prime Minister.”
"We need to be able to look the British people in the eye and say the backstop is a temporary solution. We are not going to be stuck indefinitely in a single customs territory unable to do independent trade deals.”