Brexit deal 'progress is at 0%' until Irish border solved, warns Guy Verhofstadt

Theresa May had claimed a deal was 95 per cent done

Jon Stone
Wednesday 24 October 2018 16:56 BST
What does a no-deal Brexit mean?

The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator has rejected Theresa May’s suggestion that a deal is “95 per cent done”, as Brussels warned it will not be bounced into an agreement.

Guy Verhofstadt said the withdrawal agreement needed to prevent no deal was “0 per cent done” as far as MEPs were concerned, because of the lack of a solution to the Irish border issue.

“Progress on the Brexit negotiations can be 90 per cent, 95 per cent or even 99 per cent,” Mr Verhofstadt said.

“But as long as there is no solution for the Irish border, as long as the Good Friday agreement is not fully secured, for us in our parliament progress is 0 per cent.”

The European Parliament has a veto on the final Brexit deal and has said it would kill any agreement that does not prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Speaking in a debate at the parliament’s Strasbourg seat on Wednesday morning, the second in command of the European Commission Frans Timmermans also warned that the block would not “rush a deal through at the expense of our principles”.

As long as there is no solution for the Irish border... for us in our Parliament progress is zero per cent

Guy Verhofstadt

“As was clear after the European Council the bottom line is that we do not have the decisive progress that we need,” Jean-Claude Juncker’s deputy said.

“The good will and the determination to find a deal as soon as possible are there. But it is also clear that we will not rush a deal through at the expense of our principles or our agreed commitments, most notably on the Irish border question.

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmerman: EU will not sacrifice principles to get Brexit deal

“With all of this in mind we must now continue negotiating with patience, calm and an open mind. The commission and our chief negotiator Michel Barnier received the full backing of all our leaders to do just that. It is time to deliver and we’re getting on with the job.”

Ms May had said on Monday that “95 per cent of the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocols are now settled” but that the Irish border was still a sticking point. Michel Barnier, the Commission’s chief negotiator, has previously quoted similar figures, suggesting most issues have been resolved.

But the question of the Irish border has also dogged talks and proved difficult to resolve. Most recently the UK and EU have considered extending the transition period or setting up elements of a customs union between the UK and EU after Brexit.

But any deal would also have to satisfy Eurosceptics in the Conservative Party, who are threatening to unseat Ms May, and her DUP allies in Northern Ireland, who have rejected a series of possible solutions on the basis that they treat the province differently to the rest of the UK.

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