Prime Minister Theresa May warned on Wednesday that Britain would never allow the EU to “undermine” its constitutional integrity, as she rejected a draft divorce treaty unveiled by the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
“The draft legal text will, if implemented, undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea and no UK prime minister could ever agree to it,” May told parliament.
Barnier said the draft treaty on the future relationship included a “backstop solution” under which British-ruled Northern Ireland would remain in “full alignment” with Ireland, which is a member of the bloc’s single market and customs union.
He denied the backstop will “call into question the constitutional or institutional order of the UK”, but May said she would reject such a plan when she outlines Britain’s negotiating demands on Friday.
Referring to the European Commission chief, May said she will “be making it crystal clear to President (Jean-Claude) Juncker and others that we would never” agree to a customs divergence with Northern Ireland.
Both the EU and Britain have vowed that there should be no “hard” border between Northern Ireland and Ireland following Brexit in order to protect the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.
May on Wednesday repeated that her government was “committed to ensuring that we see no hard border”, but an earlier letter she received from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson exposed the bind she is in.
“The particular problem around the Irish border is being used politically to drive the whole Brexit argument and effectively to try and frustrate Brexit,” said Johnson, a chief campaigner to leave the EU.
“It is wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border’”, he said in the leaked letter, adding the government should instead “stop this border becoming significantly harder”.
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