SOFIA (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday that Britain will leave the EU Customs Union after Brexit, but one source said London is planning a backstop plan that will apply the Union's external tariffs beyond December 2020.
According to reports Asked that London ask for a stay In the customs area of the European Union, after the post-Brexit transitional period ended in 2020, May denied that it had "stepped down" on its departure.
"No, the United Kingdom will leave the Customs Union when we leave the European Union, and of course we will negotiate future customs agreements with the European Union, and I have set myself three goals," May said on the sidelines of an EU summit in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.
She said that the objectives were that Britain should have its own trade policy with the rest of the world, that it should have smooth trade with the EU, and that there should be no hard border with EU member Ireland.
In talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, she reiterated her view that a backstop agreement on preventing hard borders, submitted by Brussels, was "unacceptable".
"The Prime Minister said that the United Kingdom will shortly come up with its own backstop proposal on customs," said her spokeswoman.
Previously, the source, familiar with the discussions, said on condition of anonymity that the government was trying to find a way to make the UK backstop agreement more acceptable, rather than seeking an extension of a transitional period.
The source said the UK could apply EU external tariffs beyond December 2020 for a limited period of time should the implementation of a Brexit agreement be delayed.
Spokeswoman for the month of May said negotiations on the backstop arrangement are continuing and that Great Britain does not want or need to use it.
May has fought to unite its Cabinet on the terms of the British divorce with the EU, with a dispute over future customs agreements that divide their government and put the Brexit negotiations on ice.
EU leaders meeting in Sofia on Thursday in May were "in the listening mode", hoping for assurances from them, one official said before a formal summit in June, where the sides agreed on another Want to highlight milestone in the negotiations.
This is necessary to finalize a final divorce agreement in October so that the EU has enough time to ratify it by Brexit Day in March 2019.
Britain otherwise risks a collapse of the bloc, a scenario that could harm the economy disrupting people's lives.
According to the EU, this timetable is under pressure as negotiations have not progressed sufficiently in recent months, especially as to how physical checks at the border between the Republic of Ireland and the UK province can be avoided from Northern Ireland.
"It is an absolute red line for us that there can be no hard border for Ireland," Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters in Sofia.
If no better ideas emerge, the bloc wants the backstop clause, after which it would continue to regulate trade in Northern Ireland after Brexit to prevent a hard line. Both sides fear that a return of border controls could rekindle the violence that plagued Northern Ireland until a peace agreement in the late 1990s.
"We have a text that is Irish backing … and we need that to be part of the resignation agreement and if it is not part of the assignment agreement, then there will be no assignment agreement," Varadkar said.
In such a scenario, Britain would not get the adjustment period from next March to the end of 2020, but would come straight out of the EU and agree on little details on how to deal with its links to the bloc.
May already said in March that EU support was unacceptable because it would cut Northern Ireland off the rest of the UK.
The source said the extension of the use of EU tariffs is part of the discussions to make the UK backstop more palatable and could be triggered if there was a delay in the ratification of the Brexit agreement or if Problems with the introduction of new technologies exist at the border.
At home, May has to balance the demands of Brexit supporters against those ministers who want to have close ties with the EU, and any suggestion that Britain might stay in the Customs Union has become a focus.
In the EU's view, this would be the best way to avoid a hard Irish border.
"If we do not make substantial progress by June, we must seriously question whether we will have an assignment agreement at all," Varadkar said.
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Estelle Shirbon, William James, and Andy Bruce in London, written by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by David Stamp