‘Long-overdue’ UK Brexit paper is insufficient – MEP

Yesterday’s UK paper on Brexit is a long-overdue step that is insufficient and incomplete, according to Mairead McGuinness, MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament.

“The proposal for a temporary customs arrangement will need to be further studied; but it appears to go only part of the way to what has already been agreed. There is much work to do,” she said.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, yesterday said that any backstop must be “all-weather” – applicable until there is an agreement on the future relationship between the EU and UK that avoids a hard border.

In light of this, McGuinness said: “It is therefore concerning that the paper appears to want a time limit on the arrangement.

The paper is also silent on regulatory standards – a key part of avoiding any border checks.

Going on this basis, the MEP said that she would expect that a second paper is being prepared to deal with the complex issues of regulatory alignment.

“My concern is that the UK has produced this customs proposal, and changes to the withdrawal text, just weeks before the June council meeting,” she said.

“Given that it does not fully deal with all the issues that might impact on the Northern Ireland aspect, an agreement at the June council would seem impossible at this stage.

It is to be hoped that this is not a negotiating strategy by the UK to shift the Northern Ireland issue into the autumn when we are up against the clock.

“Perhaps it reflects the ongoing and bitter divisions within the UK Government on the Brexit negotiations,” McGuinness said.

“The people I represent are concerned about this and fearful for the future without full agreement on the backstop to avoid a hard border,” the MEP concluded.