LONDON: Britain cannot accept Michel Barnier’s proposal to break the deadlock in the Brexit talks because it would risk the unity of the United Kingdom by treating Northern Ireland differently, the chairman of the ruling Conservative Party said.
Less than three weeks before Britain leaves the European Union, the EU’s chief negotiator said on Friday Britain could have the unilateral right to leave their customs union after Brexit.
However, Northern Ireland would remain in the EU’s trade orbit to prevent the need for any customs checks on the border with EU-member Ireland.
“We are not going to have an agreement that compromises the unity of the United Kingdom,” Brandon Lewis told BBC radio. “The proposal that Michel Barnier put out yesterday would compromise the strength of the union.
“This government will not tolerate something that puts the United Kingdom’s union at risk.”
The chairman of Britain’s Conservative Party urged parliament to back an unpopular withdrawal agreement as British and European Union officials seek a breakthrough on the Brexit impasse.
Brandon Lewis warned recalcitrant lawmakers, including many in his own party, that if the government’s withdrawal plan is voted down Tuesday it is possible Britain will end up staying in the EU.
“We need to win that vote,” he said, warning that a defeat for the withdrawal plan agreed after two years of negotiations would lead to a totally unpredictable situation.
“Nobody quite knows where we will end up whether we end up with a hard Brexit with no deal... but there is also a risk with Parliament that we end up with no Brexit at all,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2019