London : British Prime Minister Theresa May will tell lawmakers Monday the “vast majority” of a Brexit deal has been reached with European Union leaders, as she attempts to prove she’s making progress in talks amid criticism from all sides at home.
According to her prepared remarks, May will say “95 per cent of the withdrawal agreement and its protocols are now settled,” with significant progress in “the last three weeks alone.”
Her address to Parliament comes days after massive protests in London Saturday demanding a second Brexit referendum and dissent from within her ruling Conservative Party, including one MP describing May’s government as a “sh*t show.”
An initial opponent of Brexit, May has long struggled to reach a compromise with European leaders, while staving off criticism from hard-line anti-EU lawmakers within her own Conservative Party and its allies in Parliament, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The biggest outstanding problem remains the issue of how to avoid the need to construct new infrastructure along the Irish border. The removal of border posts was crucial to the Good Friday Agreement that ended years of deadly sectarian
violence in Northern Ireland.
European leaders want a “backstop” agreement, whereby in the absence of other solutions, Northern Ireland would remain aligned with European regulations on goods and services, including customs arrangements, after Britain leaves the bloc. May opposes this because, she argues, it amounts to splitting the UK into different customs zones, which would be politically unacceptable.
“The commitment to avoiding a hard border is one that this House emphatically endorsed and enshrined in law in the Withdrawal Act earlier this year,” May will say on Monday.
“As I set out last week, the original backstop proposal from the EU was one we could not accept, as it would mean creating a customs border down the Irish Sea and breaking up the integrity of the UK.”
It is unclear from May’s remarks how much progress has been made in this area since she last spoke with European leaders, but if this is the 5% of the deal which remains to be settled, then it may prove an outsized percentage.