Britain, EU close to orderly Brexit deal, May says
Writing in Die Welt, PM says 'neither side can demand the unacceptable of the other'
The United Kingdom and the European Union are close to agreeing on an orderly Brexit, British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote in a German newspaper, urging the European Commission to evolve its position for the sake of a deal.
Writing in Die Welt daily on Wednesday, May said both sides needed to show goodwill to avoid a disorderly U.K. exit from the bloc next March, which some fear would unleash major economic disruption.
"We are near to achieving the orderly withdrawal that is the essential basis for building a close future partnership," May wrote.
"To come to a successful conclusion, just as the U.K. has evolved its position, the EU will need to do the same. Neither side can demand the unacceptable of the other, such as an external customs border between different parts of the United Kingdom."
EU leaders to meet
Growing hopes among investors that London and Brussels can secure an agreement has buoyed the British pound, though it pulled back from a six-week high on Tuesday.
EU leaders are due to meet in Salzburg in Austria on Wednesday and Thursday for talks that U.K. Brexit minister Dominic Raab has said would be an "important milestone."
Raab said the government is sticking to its proposal for a post-Brexit border between its province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, one of the major obstacles to an agreement.
On Tuesday, the EU's Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc was ready to improve its proposal for an "insurance policy" backstop arrangement on how to manage the Irish border after Brexit.
Hard border question
May wrote in Die Welt that a hard border either between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. would threaten peace and stability on the island.
"To avoid a hard border we need the frictionless movement of goods. This is not the same thing as partial participation in the Single Market: British companies would not enjoy the same legal rights, for example," she wrote.
"So that frictionless movement is at the heart of the new proposals we put forward this summer," she added.
A free trade area for goods and agricultural products traded between the EU and the U.K., coupled with "a business-friendly facilitated customs arrangement, would avoid the need for customs and regulatory checks at our shared borders," she said.
Such an arrangement would also protect integrated supply chains and just-in-time processes, May added.