Theresa May to hail 'new sense of optimism' after breakthrough in Brexit talks
Jean-Claude Juncker has said that “sufficient progress” has been made for talks to move onto trade
Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker - Image credit: European Commission audiovisual
Theresa May will today hail a “new sense of optimism” in the Brexit talks as her landmark withdrawal deal looks set to unlock trade negotiations with the EU.
The Prime Minister will address MPs in the Commons after European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker announced on Friday that “sufficient progress” had been made for talks to move onto trade.
But it comes as a row with Ireland over a special clause aimed at keeping its border with Ulster fully open threatened to unravel the entire agreement.
May will say she expects EU leaders to give the green light to phase two of the negotiations when they meet for the crucial European Council summit this week.
"I know that some doubted we would reach this stage," she will tell the House of Commons.
"I have always been clear that this was never going to be an easy process.
“It has required give and take for the UK and the EU to move forwards together. And that is what we have done."
She will add: "Of course, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
"But there is, I believe, a new sense of optimism now in the talks and I fully hope and expect that we will confirm the arrangements I have set out today in the European Council later this week."
But last night Ireland lashed out at Brexit Secretary David Davis after he said a promise that Britain's economy will remain "aligned" with the EU's in areas covered by the Good Friday Agreement was not “legally enforceable”.
The clause was added to the agreement after Dublin demanded written guarantees that its border with Northern Ireland would not be compromised after Brexit.
Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney stressed that Britain had made "a clear and positive commitment" to the deal, while the Irish government chief whip, Joe McHugh, branded the Brexit Secretary’s comments “bizarre”.
It came after MPs said ministers had assured them the pledge for ‘full alignment’ was meaningless in UK law.
The withdrawal deal also covered the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa, and the UK liabilities to the EU of up to £39bn.
Elsewhere, EU officials told The Times the UK would have to accept a host of rules on environmental regulations, labour standards and competition law if it wants the “Canada plus, plus, plus” trade deal Mr Davis said he wanted.
And the chemical and pharmaceutical industries in Britain have urged ministers to let them remain within EU rules amid fears Eurosceptic campaigners could push for a break with regulations.
Move could leave International Trade Secretary Liam Fox forced to negotiate continuation of Britain’s current free trade agreements in under three months
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