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A challenging Exit – Brexit negotiations at an impasse

May’s “Chequers” plan that she presented at a summit in Austria on Thursday caused significant indignation amongst EU leaders. Skeptics are now wondering whether the Brexit negotiations hit an impasse.

 Photo: Liam Coleman/ DFNI

Photo: Liam Coleman/DFNI

But not only EU member state representatives expressed their disappointment. On Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the Brexit talks did indeed hit an impasse. “It’s not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals,” was her personal conclusion of the recent events.

One of the main issues that led to contentions was the affiliation of the Irish Republic, specifically Northern Ireland. The EU proposed that Northern Ireland could independently  remain inside the customs union in case the UK could not agree a free trade agreement with Brussels. But the proposal was quickly rejected by May who described it as an “integral part of the United Kingdom” that no British Prime Minister would ever give up.

The issue is particularly difficult since 55.8 percent of the citizens of Northern Ireland  voted against Brexit which makes this issue, once again, also a question of sovereignty. Thus, the proposal also included the suggestion of an Irish border while chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier made clear that nobody intended to challenge the constitutional integrity of the UK.

 Austrian Chancellr welcomes Theresa May to EU summit. Photos:  SkyNews

Austrian Chancellr welcomes Theresa May to EU summit. Photos: SkyNews

Main opponents of May’s Chequers plan included the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the EU council president, Donald Tusk, who openly declared the plan to be unrealistic. Macron was already subject of recent reports that quoted him accusing the British government of conspiracy by misleading the British people in the referendum.

Macron’s issue was not simply based on sincere concern for the people of the UK, but instead also another step towards his fight against European populism. May has already proven that her views don’t significantly diverge from well-known representatives of this wave such as Marine Le Pen, Steve Bannon or Viktor Orban.

Regarding the conflicting objectives of the conservative British Prime Minister and many liberal leaders within the EU, the Brexit negotiations might not reach an agreement anytime soon. However, the UK is scheduled to leave in March 2019, leaving all parties with less than a year to reconcile.