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George Mitchell in warning over hard Irish border

05 March 2018

May told the leaders late Friday the United Kingdom would seek "customs arrangements that would lead to as frictionless trade as possible with our European neighbors, as well as ensure no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland", a Downing Street spokesman said Saturday.

Labour's shadow secretary of state for Scotland Lesley Laird said: "The Scottish Government needs to publish the areas of dispute it has with the UK Government over the EU Withdrawal Bill so the public can understand how we have got into this mess".

In a major speech on Friday, Mrs May rejected "unacceptable" EU proposals to retain customs union arrangements in Northern Ireland, but accepted the UK's "responsibility" to help maintain a soft border with the Republic - spelling out in detail how she believed this could be achieved by technological means or through a broader trade agreement.

"Now we do have an opening negotiating position".

Appearing on the BBC this morning, The Tánaiste Simon Coveney is "not sure" the technological solution would "actually protect the integrity of the European Union single market".

In a tone removed from earlier caustic talks, the prime minister said she recognized the EU's principles, and called for compromise with Brussels' Brexit negotiators.

European Union and United Kingdom officials will be expected to discuss Mrs May's proposals on the border when they meet for technical talks from Monday to Wednesday in Brussels, which will also look at citizens' rights, the financial settlement and the terms of the transition.

Speaking to Andrew Marr, she declined to defend Boris Johnson's comparison of the border to crossing between London congestion zones in Camden and Islington, but insisted both of them are "absolutely clear" that there will not be a hard border.

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"I become more and more doubtful that by the autumn of this year we are going to be any further forward to knowing what the future relationship is than we are at the moment", she told Peston on Sunday.

On ITV's Peston on Sunday, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that May should be given credit for "injecting some realism" into the debate by admitting in her speech on Friday that the United Kingdom would be worse off after Brexit.

"It would be my preference to see us remain in a customs union to actually maintain frictionless trade, and I think it is the best solution to the Northern Ireland issue".

"The EU must now consider whether they want to put rigid doctrine ahead of the mutual interests of their people and those of the UK", David Jones, a Conservative lawmaker and former junior Brexit minister, told Reuters.

He told Marr: "What Theresa May is doing is trying to dance on the head of a pin that simply doesn't exist".

Mrs May sidestepped a question over whether a Commons vote on the customs union would amount to a motion of confidence.

Mrs May said that any deal must pass the "five tests" of respecting the 2016 referendum result; delivering an enduring solution; protecting security and prosperity; leaving Britain an "open, outward-looking, tolerant, European democracy"; and strengthening the union of the UK.

Ms Sturgeon cast doubt on getting the clarity she requires from Theresa May in that time frame during a television interview on Sunday.

George Mitchell in warning over hard Irish border