EU readies Brexit transition deal, Ireland seeks border assurance

British Brexit Secretary David Davis, left, and EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier pose ahead of a meeting in Brussels on Monday, March 19. (Reuters)
Updated 19 March 2018
0

EU readies Brexit transition deal, Ireland seeks border assurance

BRUSSELS: The European Union is close to offering Britain a deal on a post-Brexit status quo transition, EU diplomats and officials said on Monday, as Ireland sought assurances any agreement would not let London water down pledges on its Northern Irish border.
Asked about a deal, EU negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters “We are determined” as he welcomed British Brexit Secretary David Davis to the European Commission. The two are expected to speak at a news conference scheduled at short notice to take place at 1145GMT.
Brussels diplomats dealing with Brexit for the other 27 EU member states were also summoned urgently for a briefing shortly before Davis arrived and several of them told Reuters that they believed that a weekend of intensive talks had broken deadlock to allow EU leaders to offer a transition deal on Friday.
Before his own meeting with Barnier, and ahead of Davis’ arrival, Ireland’s main Brexit point man, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, warned that Dublin wanted assurances from the EU that there would be “no backsliding” from London on an agreement in December that there would be no disruptive “hard border” on the island, if necessary by aligning Northern Ireland with the EU.
Dublin is concerned at British Prime Minister Theresa May’s rejection of a “backstop” arrangement set out in the EU’s draft of the withdrawal treaty — under which Northern Ireland would effectively submit to EU economic rules and so become potentially isolated from the British mainland. The EU says May agreed to that potential outcome in December.

Britain argues that it has two other preferred outcomes for the Irish border, both dependent on agreement on future EU-UK trade rules. Negotiations on that will not start until next month, once Friday’s EU summit gives Barnier the go-ahead. As a result, Britain is reluctant to give even a conditional nod to a draft treaty on Ireland that May says she could never accept.
EU diplomats said that it was likely that the draft wording on Ireland would not be agreed before May meets the other 27 leaders in Brussels on Thursday or before the 27 meeting to agree a transition deal on Friday. However, London would need to assure its good faith on the border issue in order to get a transition.
Brussels is keen to give May a positive outcome this week, locking in an interim political accord that Britain would remain in most EU structures without a vote after it leaves next March until at least the end of 2020. That will not be legally binding until the full treaty is ratified early next year, however.
Other parts of the treaty are still being negotiated, including the controversial protocol on Ireland. It is not vital to conclude that before offering the transition, but Dublin and 4its EU allies are anxious not to give up a vital element of leverage on London before the border issue is settled.
Sterling jumped as optimism for a transition deal grew on Monday. The pound traded 0.54 percent higher versus the euro, its biggest daily gain since late January. The pound also broke through the $1.40 mark against the dollar and was up more than half a percent on the day.


Trump accepts Queen Elizabeth’s invite for UK state visit in June

Updated 10 min 35 sec ago
0

Trump accepts Queen Elizabeth’s invite for UK state visit in June

  • The trip is likely to be controversial given many Britons deeply dislike Trump and reject his policies

LONDON: Donald Trump has accepted Queen Elizabeth’s invitation to make a state visit to Britain in June, becoming only the third US president to have been accorded the honor by the monarch, Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday.
The trip is likely to be controversial given many Britons deeply dislike the man and reject his policies on issues such as immigration. Protests involving tens of thousands of demonstrators overshadowed a visit by Trump to Britain last July and organizers said they were planning a “huge demonstration” against his state visit.
The opposition Labour Party strongly criticized Prime Minister Theresa May for pressing ahead with the state visit, which May offered to Trump when she became the first foreign leader to visit him after his inauguration in January 2017.
Trump and his wife Melania will visit from June 3-5, the palace said, adding that further details would be announced in due course. State visits are usually pomp-laden affairs featuring an open-top carriage trip through central London and a banquet at Buckingham Palace.
“The UK and United States have a deep and enduring partnership that is rooted in our common history and shared interests,” May said in a statement.
May, who is facing calls for her resignation from some lawmakers in her own Conservative Party over her handling of the country’s exit from the European Union, which is still stalled, will be hoping for strong backing for a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal.
The state visit would be an opportunity to strengthen already close ties in areas such as trade, investment, security and defense, she said.
During his trip last year, Trump shocked Britain’s political establishment by giving a withering assessment of May’s Brexit strategy. He said she had failed to follow his advice such as suing the EU but later said May was doing a fantastic job.
“This is a President who has systematically assaulted all the shared values that unite our two countries, and unless Theresa May is finally going to stand up to him and object to that behavior, she has no business wasting taxpayers’ money on all the pomp, ceremony and policing costs that will come with this visit,” Emily Thornberry, Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Trump’s visit in June, which coincides with events to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France during World War Two, will include a meeting with May in Downing Street.

TEA AND PROTESTS
Last year, Trump was feted with a lavish dinner at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of the British World War Two leader Winston Churchill, and he and his wife also had tea with the queen at Windsor Castle.
The president then breached royal protocol by publicly disclosing details of a conversation he had with the 93-year-old monarch about the complexities of Brexit.
Trump’s state visit has been a divisive issue for Britons since May issued the invitation, with more than 1.8 million people signing a petition calling for him to be prevented from making such a trip, leading to a debate in parliament in 2017.
More than 100 protests were planned across the country during his visit last year and police had to deploy 10,000 officers, an operation that cost nearly 18 million pounds.
The largest protest in London attracted some 250,000 according to organizers, bringing much of the capital to a standstill.
They promised a “Together Against Trump” protest in June.
“He is a symbol of the new far right, a politics of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, of war and conflict, and walls and fences that are growing around the world,” said Shaista Aziz, from the Stop Trump coalition.
The queen, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has met every USleader since Harry S. Truman except for Lyndon Johnson. Only two US presidents — Barack Obama in 2011 and George W. Bush in 2003 — have previously been invited for full state visits.
After leaving Britain, Trump will travel to France to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, the White House said.