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The European Commission hasn't so much dismissed the content of the UK paper as refused to engage with it until the initial three topics for negotiations have been progressed, seeing the paper as attempting leapfrog the first phase into the substance of the trade negotiations the UK so dearly wants to address as a matter of priority.

European Commission pours cold water on UK's Brexit paper on North

The European Commission has poured cold water on the UK's Brexit negotiating paper on Northern Ireland by reminding it that, in the words of the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, "frictionless trade is not possible outside the single market and customs union".

The idea of leaving both the single market and customs union but of maintaining an "infrastructure-free" Border at Newry was a central thrust of the UK paper published on Wednesday, but it remains in the eyes of both Irish and EU officials an unrealistic expectation.

In its brief response to the British paper, a spokesman for the commission said that such trade issues would only be a matter for the second phase of negotiations once "sufficient progress" had been made on the withdrawal issues in the ongoing phase-one discussions.

However the Commission will also be wary of being seen as offering the Irish a less advantageous position than the UK.  In due course, I would expect it to respond with an offer of retaining Northern Ireland within the customs Union and the Single Market, an offer which would be unacceptable to the DUP as it would entail moving the EU/UK border into the Irish Sea.

The UK cannot be seen as accepting such an offer without losing the support of the DUP although I suspect London couldn't care less... Thus I expect the resolution of the matter to be one of the very last things to be agreed if the negotiations do reach ab agreement.

By then, I would expect the Tory government to be resigned to losing the support of a majority in Parliament anyway - some hard line Brexiteers and the DUP will jump ship when they see the content of the proposed deal. Labour will also reject a "Tory deal" which is obviously less advantageous than the status quo.

May will then go to the country, just before the March 2019 deadline, "to give the nation the choice" of a no deal or European Commission deal Brexit. It is almost impossible to predict which she will campaign for - the deal negotiated by her Brexiteer Ministers or a no deal Brexit, but I suspect the latter on the grounds that the obduracy of the Brussels bureaucrats and the will of Parliament has given her no choice.

Labour will campaign on achieving an extension of the A50 period and re-opening negotiations with a different set of priorities and demands. The Tories will scoff at the "unrealism" of the Labour demands which will be greeted with a weary shrug an a distinct lack of enthusiasm by the EU Council.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 18th, 2017 at 08:48:33 AM EST

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