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Failing Brexit

Failing Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Brexit strategy never had it so bad. The latest talks between the UK and the European Union (EU) concluded without a Brexit deal after disputes over Northern Ireland continued to linger. "In the last few days, UK and EU negotiators have made real progress in a number of key areas. However, there remain a number of unresolved issues relating to the backstop," according to a statement from the UK's Department for Exiting the European Union. The "backstop" refers to an agreement to protect an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Michel Barnier, the EU's Chief Brexit negotiator, said that "despite intense efforts, some key issues are still open, including the backstop." Time is running out to reach a deal before the end of March next year. The Bank of England has warned that house prices would crash, businesses fret over chaos at the Channel ports and airlines worry that the agreements that keep planes in the air across Europe would fall away.

But for a deal to be concluded, each side must find a way of avoiding the necessity to rebuild border posts between Northern Ireland, which will leave the EU with the rest of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU. The removal of border infrastructure was a key part of the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland after years of sectarian strife. In an effort to avoid a "hard" Irish border, the EU had originally proposed that Northern Ireland remain closely tied to European regulations, including the customs union, once Britain leaves the bloc. Theresa May had instead proposed that the whole of the UK remains inside the customs union, but on a short-term basis. Last month, Barnier suggested that he was preparing to propose a new "backstop" proposal on the Irish border, attempting to "de-dramatise" discussions about what happens with Northern Ireland if Britain and the EU fail to reach an agreement on a future relationship. But that has not resulted in any progress so far. The British Prime Minister, who was humiliated in her most recent attempt to reach an accord with European leaders, faces pressure not only from within her Conservative Party but also their allies in Parliament, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The DUP, a right-wing Northern Irish party determined to avoid reunification with the Republic, has said it will not accept any deal which results in the country being treated differently to the rest of the UK. From all indications, DUP has been preparing for a "no deal" Brexit as the most likely outcome.

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