United Kingdom 'chasing fantasy' over plans to avoid hard Irish border, says EU

PA Archive  PA Images                   Andrea Jenkyns MP for Morley and Outwood addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester

PA Archive PA Images Andrea Jenkyns MP for Morley and Outwood addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester

"Twenty-three months after the referendum and fourteen months since the triggering of Article 50, we still don't know what the UK's future relationship with the European Union will be on trade, services, security, defence, consumer safety, data, broadcasting rights and many other things", Benn said.

But she told the Commons Brexit committee: "The prime minister has made very clear that the offer on the financial settlement is made as part of a broader package relating [to], and in the spirit of our future partnership".

Last December, the European Union and United Kingdom agreed a draft deal on key divorce issues, including Britain's financial settlement.

The payment and the future trade deal are not formally linked because the withdrawal agreement "does not contain conditionalities", Ms. Braverman said.

Mrs Braverman said: "Yes, I don't deny that there will be a legal treaty which will be forthcoming on the framework".

Asked by Mr McFadden whether it is the government's "intention and policy" to insert "conditionality" on paying the divorce bill into the withdrawal agreement, Mrs Braverman replied: "The withdrawal agreement text has been almost finalised and agreed".

After the hearing Mr McFadden, who supports the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said: "The mess Suella Braverman got into over payments to the EU is a stark illustration of the complete chaos in government over Brexit". So much for taking back control.

CHRIS J RATCLIFFE via Getty Images                   Labour MP Hilary Benn the remainer who chairs the Brexit Select Committee
CHRIS J RATCLIFFE via Getty Images Labour MP Hilary Benn the remainer who chairs the Brexit Select Committee

The government aims for parliament to vote on this in October this year, along with a "political declaration" on the terms of a future trade deal, which are still yet to be negotiated.

"The Tories have agreed to pay tens of billions for a worse deal than we have now and without having any guarantees about what we will get for it in return".

The EU can not formally sign its future relationship with the United Kingdom until Britain is a "third country" in March 2019.

The prime minister is considering asking Brussels to let Britain stay in the customs union for two years on top of the proposed 20-month transition period, in order to have more time to solve the Irish border dilemma.

"If that proves impossible then Britain will have to go it alone, possibly with other partners outside Europe and the U.S., to build a third competing system", Philip Hammond told reporters before a meeting of European Union finance ministers in Brussels.

The official said: "We need to have the recognition that the backstop has to be Northern Ireland-specific".

"The clock is now running down and Parliament will need clarity and certainty by the time it is asked to vote on a draft withdrawal agreement in the autumn".

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