EU Leaders Reject UK Brexit Trade Plan

Rejections highlight potential border issue between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

EU Leaders meet in Salzburg
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Rejections highlight potential border issue between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The United Kingdom Prime Minister, Theresa May, has taken a big hit to her political capital after EU leaders rejected her latest proposals for Brexit, reports the BBC.

Rejection of the plan was highlighted on Wednesday when the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said that May’s plan for economic cooperation with the EU “will not work.” Tusk delivered this sentiment during a speech at the end of the EU summit in Salzburg designed to discuss Brexit.

May has said that her government’s proposals to the EU were the “only serious credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. The issue surrounding Northern Ireland is perhaps the biggest issue surrounding Brexit, as there is currently no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland –the latter being part of the United Kingdom. That is largely due to both countries currently being in the EU, which means neither country can enforce a hard border.

A hard border would necessitate immigration and customs control, contrary to some precepts of the European Union.

Tusk and May held discussions in line with the Salzburg meetings, which the Prime Minister described as “frank” — saying that concerns were raised from both sides and that there was “a lot of hard work to be done.”

With time running out for a deal between both parties, May has been working on a plan B should there not be a deal by the March 29 deadline.

Tusk’s comments had him confirming that progress had been made between the two parties, and he did caveat his portrayal of the plan presented by the U.K. as having “positive elements.”

The EU has put some pressure on the U.K., wanting a deal sooner rather than later, expecting to reach an agreement at meetings to be held in October between the two parties. German Chancellor Angela Merkel — who is seen as a crucial figure on the discussions — said that “substantial progress” was yet required for there to be any deal struck come October.

With the possibility that there may be no agreement in place in the short term looking increasingly likely, October’s meeting will be tense. The UK requires approval on any prospective deal from 20 countries in the European Council in order to get a deal ratified by the European Parliament. Should a deal not be reached in October, the negotiations can be extended — but only if all 27 nations agree.

The odds of that happening are long, indeed.

Merkel said that the 27 EU member nations were “united that, in the matter of the single market, there can be no compromises” which has increased fears that there will be no deal for the UK.

A failure to reach any independent agreement would constitute what is termed as a “hard Brexit” — with the U.K. getting no trade deal from the EU. The UK would then immediately leave the EU, with no rules from their former alliance applying to them. It would also make a hard border a near requirement — as both parties would look to regulate trade between themselves and the other party.