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All eyes on Nov 5 UK Cabinet meeting for Brexit breakthrough

08 November 2018
All eyes on Nov 5 UK Cabinet meeting for Brexit breakthrough

Mrs May will meet with her cabinet tomorrow to brief ministers on the status of Brexit negotiations, and to persuade them to rally round her solution to the Irish border issue.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told Theresa May that the United Kingdom cannot unilaterally decide when the controversial Irish backstop can be terminated after Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab again floated the idea of a time-limited agreement.

British Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tabled the proposal during a "robust" meeting with Tánaiste Simon Coveney last Tuesday.

However, Brussels is refusing to agree to an end date or mechanism that would allow the United Kingdom to pull out of the arrangement, meaning that an agreement is unlikely to be reached this week.

The hardline stance, which has stunned Irish officials, is poised to delay the Brexit divorce deal by at least another week.

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of the European Union began marching through London on Saturday (20 October) as part of what organisers say will be the largest ever demonstration to demand that the British government holds a public vote on the terms of Brexit.

The message quickly won endorsement from the EU's deputy Brexit negotiator, Sabine Weyand, who reacted to Coveney's comments by saying: "Still necessary to repeat this, it seems".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also said the government in Ireland "can't countenance any idea" involving a limit like this on the backstop. We want there to be an agreement.

"If we can get a good deal, and that means removing all the frictions".

British Prime Minister Theresa May raised the possibility of a review mechanism for the backstop in a phone call on Monday with Varadkar that she had sought to update him on the current state of the talks, the Irish government said in a statement.

These are, in particular, coming up against a stumbling block as to how to avoid the return to a hard border between the province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"It is also the case that numerous claims that were dismissed as scare-mongering in 2016 such as the border in Ireland could not be easily dismissed and are as big or even bigger problems today than they were at the time of the vote".

An open frontier is seen as crucial to the 1998 Good Friday peace accord that ended decades of sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

The Guardian cited unidentified European Union officials saying the chances of Mrs May reaching a deal on the Irish border that she can sell to Cabinet and Parliament were only "50-50".