EU officials start planning for a UK hard Brexit

#Brexit special section In the media

EU diplomats are to hold a series of meetings to plan for the UK leaving the bloc without a deal.

The no deal seminars are being arranged as time runs out for Prime Minister Theresa May to secure agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure.

There are just 148 days left before the UK is due to leave on March 29 next year and at present there is no indication when talks on a deal will resume.

Mrs May and her team were hoping to agree terms by this autumn, leaving enough time for any deal to be approved by the UK and European Parliaments.

Although officials from both sides are engaged in constant dialogue, hopes of a special Brexit summit in November to wrap up a deal are fading.

There are no talks scheduled for this week between Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

The ‘hard Brexit’ EU seminars will cover:

  • Citizens’ rights.
  • Customs and border controls.
  • Air transport.
  • Surface transport (road and rail).
  • Financial services.

There are fears in Europe that time could run out and the UK could end up without a deal by default if Parliament votes down any agreement that is reached.

The sticking point is the Irish border and the backstop plan proposed by the EU, which Mrs May’s explicitly rejected in Parliament last week.

This has led to accusations from the EU that the UK is backtracking on promises made earlier about avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

Mr Barnier said this month he did not expect any developments until December at the earliest, leaving little time for any deal to be approved by the UK Parliament.

The Irish backstop proposal that is blocking progress is a contingency plan to keep an ‘invisible’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

It would keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs union and governed by rules of the single market.

Mrs May has rejected that and says and the government is ‘searching for alternatives’.

The UK will depart on March 29 unless the EU’s 27 member states unanimously agree to any British request to extend the two-year article 50 period for leaving.

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