London saying Ireland will be under huge pressure to compromise on backstop

British diplomats are briefing that the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for Ireland are so disastrous that compromise is likely

Despite regular reports of optimism in London about a new Brexit deal, according to sources in Dublin and Brussels the prospects for any breakthrough remain remote. Photograph: Getty Images

Despite regular reports of optimism in London about a new Brexit deal, according to sources in Dublin and Brussels the prospects for any breakthrough remain remote. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The British government has begun strong lobbying across the European Union to argue that Ireland will be under huge pressure to compromise on the Brexit backstop.

Both British politicians and diplomats have briefed counterparts strongly that the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for Ireland are so disastrous that compromise is likely, senior Irish officials say.

Last week Brussels and Dublin was taken aback by the tone of a speech in Madrid from British Brexit secretary Steve Barclay, where he warned that Ireland faced food and medicine shortages after a no-deal Brexit.

However, it now emerges that Mr Barclay, other British ministers and British diplomats have delivered even harder messages in private around Europe in recent weeks.

The British briefings have been relayed to Dublin through a network of business and diplomatic contacts.

The news comes ahead of a significant week in Brexit affairs which will see a ruling by the British supreme court on the prorogation of parliament, a meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the British prime minister Boris Johnson in New York and further EU-UK meetings in Brussels.

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However, despite regular reports of optimism in London about a new Brexit deal, the prospects for any breakthrough remain remote, according to sources in Dublin and Brussels.

One EU source said that progress had “gone into reverse” in recent days.

The growing pessimism in Brussels comes as the EU told member states that it has rejected the proposals by the UK contained in papers submitted by London during technical talks last week.

In a response circulated to diplomats from EU member states, EU officials say that the UK itself has confirmed that its proposals “do not amount to legally operational solutions, and would have to be developed during the transition period”.

“The UK team further added that they would have to establish a regulatory and customs border on the island of Ireland as a consequence,” the document says.

Operational solutions

The document, intended to co-ordinate EU responses to the latest round of talks, bluntly dismisses the papers tabled by the British government last week.

“In addition to not providing legally operational solutions,” it says, the UK’s proposals “fall short of satisfying all the objectives of the backstop” which it describes as “avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland; protecting the all-Ireland economy and North-South co-operation; preserving the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it”.

“It is the United Kingdom’s responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement,” it says. “The Union remains available to examine and discuss any such proposals.”

It is understood that technical talks between officials will continue this week, with a possible meeting between chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Mr Barclay next week.

However, there is little expectation on the EU side of any breakthrough, and a growing suspicion that the flurry of diplomatic activity in recent weeks is intended to enable Mr Johnson to claim to a domestic UK audience that he has tried everything to secure a deal.

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