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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 28 February, 2020

Michel Barnier offers UK a new Brexit deal with just 21 days to go to the deadline

Barnier said there are still options available to the UK.

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
Image: Michael Gruber via PA

THE EU’S CHIEF Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has offered the UK a new Brexit deal which would see it leave the customs union but keep parts of the backstop which would ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.

In a number of tweets sent this afternoon, Barnier said the UK has been offered a way to exit the “single customs territory unilaterally, while the other elements of the backstop must be maintained to avoid a hard border”. 

Barnier added: “The UK will not be forced into customs union against its will. The EU will continue working intensively over the coming days to ensure that the UK leaves the EU with an agreement.”

However, it is thought that the DUP, which props up Theresa May’s Conservative government, will not accept the deal as it effectively differentiates between the North and Great Britain – a red letter issue for the DUP.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, in response to Barnier’s tweets, said the ball is in the UK’s court. 

He said: “We were and remain happy to apply the backstop only to Northern Ireland, if they want to go back to that. It doesn’t have to trap or keep all of Great Britain in the single customs territory for a prolonged period, or at all.”

The British parliament is set to vote this Tuesday on May’s existing deal with Brussels after rejecting it by a historic margin in January.

May told an audience of factory workers in the North Sea fishing port of Grimsby that Britain may never split off from the other 27 nations if Brussels failed to help her now.

The deal “needs just one more push to address the final, specific concerns of our parliament,” May said.

“Because if MPs reject the deal, nothing is certain. It would be at a moment of crisis.”

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