Brexit: No-deal grows more likely as UK refuses to table new plan for Northern Ireland border backstop
The UK is refusing to table a new plan for a Northern Ireland border backstop in Brexit talks â" raising the prospect of disastrous no-deal as the negotiating deadline looms.
Frustrated EU officials are complaining that the UK is even making it harder for them to come up with their own new plan to break the deadlock, by dragging its feet on releasing data relating to existing checks on the border.
The Northern Ireland backstop is the biggest issue preventing withdrawal agreement from being signed â" a state of affairs that would see the UK crash out of the block potentially causing chaos.
Brussels and Ireland have both said they would not accept a withdrawal agreement without a backstop in it to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland under any circumstances.
Theresa May flat-out rejected the EU proposal to keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs territory months ago, warning that âno British prime ministerâ could agree to it â" but there has since been little progress on coming up with an alternative.
British officials in Brussels confirmed to The Independent again on Thursday that there were no immediate plans to publish a new white paper or other plan for a backstop, despite the EU request for a new proposal.
âIf we need to set out further policy positions weâll set out further policy positions,â one UK official said.
The British position is to offer a âtemporary customs arrangementâ from early June coupled with the Chequers proposals â" meaning there is no need for a backstop. But EU has said this plan would not prevent a hard border and that other proposals are needed.
British officials say they want to prevent a hard border by negotiating a future relationship that removes the need for checks â" but the prime ministerâs Chequers plan has been all-but rejected by the European Commission.
For months there have been reports around Brussels that the commission is working on tweaking its own backstop proposal to âde-dramatiseâ it and make it more palatable to the UK, but new plans have yet to materialise.
The British government sees keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union as a thread to British sovereignty, and the Democratic Unionist Party which props up Theresa Mayâs minority government has said it will not accept different treatment for Northern Ireland.