Theresa May speaks at the headquarters of the European Commission on Monday, December 4 in Brussels, where she went to negotiate on the Brexit
The British prime minister, Theresa May, tried on Tuesday to overcome the resistance of her Northern Ireland union partners to the agreement she had reached with Brussels and Dublin on the Northern Irish border after the Brexit.
Under the agreement, London accepted that the British province of Northern Ireland would be „aligned“ with Ireland legally after leaving the United Kingdom, allowing people and goods to move freely as they did until now, when Irish and British were part of the EU.
This would have meant, de facto, that Northern Ireland remained somehow in the customs union and the European single market, and that the border between the EU and the United Kingdom was being moved to the Irish Sea, something that would resemble a reunification Irish, to the annoyance of unionists loyal to London.
The rumors of the agreement unleashed a political storm: Scottish, Welsh and even the mayor of London demanded a similar agreement for them, and the Northern Irish unionists of the DUP -whose deputies ensure the survival of May in Parliament-, rejected a text that separates Northern Ireland „economically or politically from the United Kingdom“, said Arlene Foster, its leader.
May then asked for more time to save a text that would have allowed London and Brussels to enter the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, which will address future trade relations.
– May, attentive to their backs –
„I am confident that we will conclude this in a positive way,“ the prime minister said in a brief statement in Brussels after a working lunch with the president of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker.
This Tuesday, May will try to convince the unionists without greatly altering an agreement that enjoyed the approval of Dublin and Brussels.
„I do not think this government wants to change the meaning of the text, but clarifications were needed,“ Irish Minister of European Affairs Helen McEntee told RTE, the country’s public television.
„Our point of view is that the text that was agreed upon is sufficient,“ said McEntee.
The dispute highlights May’s political weakness, that if she lost the support of the 10 unionist deputies she could be forced to call elections.
In addition to overcoming the resistance of the Northern Irish, the leader has to watch their backs, because the most anti-European elements of their own Conservative Party will not facilitate the task.
„If Theresa May goes too far, we and the DUP will withdraw the support and there will be a change of leader before Christmas,“ he said, under anonymity, a senior conservative newspaper The Times.
– Deadline, Sunday –
Despite the difficulties, the British Minister of Finance, Philip Hammond, reiterated on Tuesday in Brussels the optimism of his government.
„It is a very complex set of negotiations, there are many parties in movement, many parties involved, and we are very confident that we will be able to advance this,“ he told the press.
„As the prime minister said yesterday, we will have to hold more consultations, more discussions, and hope to return to Brussels this week.“
May is expected to return on Wednesday or Thursday, and the EU has warned that Sunday is the limit for an agreement if it wants the other 27 European leaders to give their approval to the opening of trade talks at the European summit of 14 and on December 15.
The Prime Minister will receive on Tuesday in Downing Street the president of the Spanish Government, Mariano Rajoy, who published an article in the Guardian newspaper in which he thanked May for his support in the Catalan independence struggle, and expressed confidence that the European negotiations come to a good port
We hope that „an agreement is reached that respects the interests of all parties in terms of the financial agreement and the border with Ireland,“ Rajoy wrote.