Theresa May said there were “two big issues” behind an “impasse” in the Brexit negotiations: the UK’s economic relationship post-Brexit and the Irish border. Here’s a look at why they are causing a rift.
What is the economic relationship issue?
Mrs May said the European Union were only offering two options regarding trade: the UK staying in the European Economic Area (EEA) and a customs union, or a basic free trade agreement for Great Britain with checks at the border.
By staying in a customs union, Mrs May said Britain would have to “abide by all the EU rules” – and, crucially, would not be able to strike the trade deals the Government wants with other countries.
She said this would “make a mockery” of the referendum.
Mrs May said the second option, a basic free trade agreement, would keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and parts of the single market, separating it from the rest of the UK with a border down the Irish Sea.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly said such a division is something she would never agree to, as it goes against the Good Friday Agreement.
What is the Irish border issue?
The second issue also relates to the risk of a division on the Irish border, but more specifically over a “backstop”.
Both the EU and the UK agree the need for backstop arrangements for implementation at the border if no long-term solution is found, and both are keen to ensure there will not be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
But the UK has rejected the EU’s proposal to achieve this by “effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union”.
Mrs May said this was something the UK would “never agree to” as it would mean “breaking up our country”.
How can the “impasse” be broken?
Mrs May called on the EU to provide counter proposals.
She said it was “not acceptable” to simply reject the UK’s suggestions without a detailed explanation, adding that until they provide an alternative, progress cannot be made.