Britain, EU in suspense

Bruno Cirelli
Giugno 19, 2017

The former prime minister Sir John Major has suggested it will be hard for the government to act as an honest broker in talks to restore the power-sharing agreement in Belfast if it enters into a deal with the DUP to prop up a Conservative minority government in Westminster.

Although the Downing Street statement had been quickly contradicted by the DUP in what appeared to be a shot across Theresa May's bows, it was still expected on Sunday that a deal was imminent, with DUP leader Alrene Foster flying to London for talks at Downing Street on Tuesday, supposedly to finalise the arrangement.

As Britain entered a sixth day of political turmoil, May's team continued talks with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to secure their support in parliament after May failed to win a majority in Thursday's election. "We never put timescales on when we expect a deal to be done and I'm not going to start now".

A source said: "The focus will be on restoring devolved government to Northern Ireland as soon as possible". But an alliance between May and a pro-Union party like the DUP could undermine the confidence of Northern Ireland's Catholics in the process and revive tensions in an area bordering the EU.

The prospect of a deal has also caused consternation in Dublin, with Irish premier Enda Kenny warning such an alliance could upset Northern Ireland's fragile peace.

After losing her parliamentary majority in a botched gamble on a snap election, May's Brexit strategy has become the subject of public debate inside her own party, with calls for her to take a more business-friendly approach.

She said: "I think there is a unity of goal among people in the United Kingdom". "But let us be clear and organised and once the negotiations have started we should be well aware that it'll be more hard to move backwards".

The opening was set to take place on Monday, but was delayed amid negotiations.

"We stand at a critical time with those Brexit negotiations starting only next week - I think that stability is important".

With the two-year clock on Brexit ticking away since March, when a letter from May formally started proceedings, Barnier dismissed the suggestion of postponing the negotiations and said such a delay would only prompt further instability.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, warned Tuesday that "the current uncertainty can not continue" and on Wednesday issued five "pressing questions" on Twitter.

"This new arrangement is very unsettling and people are concerned and anxious about what it may mean", Sinn Fein MP Michelle Glidernew told AFP.

"The UK Government is offering whatever support we can, working alongside the Irish government, as appropriate, honouring our respective commitments in the Belfast Agreement to serve the interests of the whole community in Northern Ireland", he said. "The current uncertainty can not continue", he said on Twitter.

The EU will open the historic divorce talks with the United Kingdom by discussing the size of the bill London will have to settle, the rights of EU and UK citizens and the bloc's new external border in Northern Ireland.

The draft law will empower Europe to deny post-Brexit London the right to host financial market "clearing houses" that deal in euros, the EU's single currency, European Union sources said.

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