British Prime Minister Theresa May is to hold talks with key EU leaders ahead of a summit to endorse her Brexit deal. But resistance at home and abroad continues to dog negotiations.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is to hold last-minute talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk on the eve of an EU summit that could still be blocked by Spanish objections to her deal on Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc.
Spain has threatened to veto the deal unless the wording is changed to give Madrid guarantees that it alone can decide on the future of the disputed territory of Gibraltar in direct talks with London.
May hopes nonetheless to leave Brussels on Sunday with the terms of British withdrawal on March 29 and a comprehensive concept for future Britain-EU relations settled with the bloc.
Northern Irish opposition
The British premier is, however, also facing opposition closer to home, with the Democratic Union Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, whose support is vital to her government, holding a conference on Saturday.
The right-wing and “Christian fundamentalist” DUP, which is in favor of Brtish rule in Northern Ireland, believes that the deal’s backstop provision to ensure an open border on the island of Ireland will give the province a different economic status compared with the mainland.
This, it fears, could increase the chances of Irish unification, which it vigorously rejects.
Getting the DUP on board will be highly important to May if the deal is to be passed by the British Parliament, where May’s Conservative Party only has a minority. The Conservatives have a “confidence-and-supply” arrangement with the DUP’s 10 members of parliament, allowing them an effective majority.
The expected presence of Britain’s finance minister, Philip Hammond, at Saturday’s conference underlines the central role the highly conservative party now plays.
Hammond on Saturday reiterated his support for May’s draft deal on Saturday, telling broadcaster BBC that it was “a way of Britain leaving the European Union … with minimum negative impact on our economy.”
At the same time, he warned that no deal would mean “very serious” consequences in the future for the economy, jobs and prosperity.