May to lay out Britain’s three-track approach to EU regulations

Donald Tusk defends European Commission’s draft text regarding Northern Ireland

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May greets European Council President Donald Tusk at 10 Downing Street in London on March 1st, 2018. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May greets European Council President Donald Tusk at 10 Downing Street in London on March 1st, 2018. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images


Theresa May will on Friday lay out her government’s proposal for Britain’s future relationship with the European Union in what is being billed as her third major speech on Brexit. The prime minister won the support of her cabinet at a special meeting on Thursday when ministers were allowed to read a draft text of the speech.

  Ms May is expected to propose “ambitious managed divergence” from EU regulations after Brexit, with some economic sectors remaining fully aligned, others adopting equivalent regulations and a third category ignoring EU regulations altogether. European Council President Donald Tusk, who has dismissed the proposals as “illusory”, was in Downing Street on Thursday for lunch with the prime minister.

  Before the meeting, Mr Tusk defended the European Commission’s draft legal text outlining how Northern Ireland would remain part of the EU regulatory area if no other solution is found to prevent a hard border.

  “Hence, if no other solution is found, the proposal to ‘establish a common regulatory area comprising the Union and the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland’. And, until now, no-one has come up with anything wiser than that,” he said.

  Ms May has rejected the draft legal text, telling MPs that no British prime minister could accept something she claimed was an interference in the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom. Mr Tusk said that all 27 remaining EU member-states supported the text and he warned that the prime minister’s negotiating red lines made frictionless trade impossible.

  “There can be no frictionless trade outside of the customs union and the single market. Friction is an inevitable side-effect of Brexit,” he said.

  A day after John Major called for a free vote in Parliament on the final Brexit deal, Tony Blair was in Brussels arguing for a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership. And he warned that Brexit would not only be bad for Britain but for Europe too.

  “Britain out of Europe will ultimately be a focal point of disunity, when the requirement for unity is so manifest. No matter how we try, it will create a competitive pole to that of Europe, economically and politically to the detriment of both of us,” he said.

  He said the EU should help Britain to change its mind by offering concessions to address the concerns which led a majority to vote Leave in 2016.

  “A comprehensive plan on immigration control, which preserves Europe’s values but is consistent with the concerns of its people and includes sensitivity to the challenges of the freedom of movement principle, together with a roadmap for future European reform . . . would be right for Europe and timely for the evolving British debate on Brexit,” he said.

  Meanwhile, a video emerged showing Ms May warning two days before the referendum of its impact on the Border.

  “If we were out of the European Union, with tariffs on exporting goods into the EU, there would have to be something to recognise that between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. And if you pulled out of the EU and came out of free movement then how could you have a situation where there was an open border with a country which was in the EU and had access to free movement?” she said.

  Chuka Umunna, a pro-EU Labour MP, said Ms May was telling the truth then and she should come clean now about the real consequences of Brexit.

  “It is imperative that Mrs May uses her ‘Road to Brexit’ speech tomorrow to be honest with the people of our country about what the consequences of her hard Brexit policy are. She needs to drop the dishonesty and face down the extreme Brexiters in her party,” he said.