LONDON • The UK is close to running out of time in its divorce negotiations with the European Union (EU) and would be set back by missing a December deadline to resolve several thorny issues, Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson (picture) said.
Failing to resolve issues such as the status of the Irish border and the payment from the UK would further cut the time available to reach a new trading deal with the bloc, and add to uncertainties for business.
The EU has set Dec 4 for Prime Minister Theresa May, leader of the UK Conservatives, to outline solutions on the two issues before trade talks begin.
“If we don’t make it through in the next two weeks, to move on to that next phase, then we are rapidly going to run out of time in terms of getting us to a good position at a time when that transitional deal is supposed to take place,” Davidson said on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show” yesterday. “I don’t think it means the world has ended, but I do think it’s a setback.”
European Council President Donald Tusk asked the UK government to make extra efforts to resolve the differences — most pressingly on the divorce bill and the thorny question of the Irish border — by early December.
The UK has agreed with Brussels that Britain will pay more than £40 billion (RM218.26 billion) when it quits the bloc in March 2019, but the precise figure will not be disclosed to the public, according to the Sunday Times, which cited people i n t he EU familiar with the discussions.
Once the UK quits the EU, the border between Ireland’s north and south — historically the scene of tense checkpoints and violent protest — will regain significance as the only land crossing between EU-member Ireland and the UK.
The Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, which is propping up May’s Conservative government, said on Saturday that it would oppose any attempt to apply EU rules to Northern Ireland after Brexit and that any move to impose a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would be a “red line”.
Ireland’s Phil Hogan, the EU commissioner for agriculture, said the UK remaining inside the single market and customs union, or allowing Northern Ireland to stay a member, would end the standoff, the Observer reported yesterday.
He also said that Ireland would “continue to play tough to the end” in potentially derailing talks until it has guarantees over the border.