United Kingdom approach to Irish border issue 'ignores food concerns'

Theresa May has claimed that she is in favour of a frictionless border. Pic AP

Brussels rejected the U.K.'s two post-Brexit customs proposals to solve the Northern Ireland border issue.

The Daily Telegraph said it had been told the UK's plans for Northern Ireland had been subject to a "systematic and forensic annihilation" in what it said was a "detailed and forensic rebuttal".

Michel Barnier said on Friday that a quarter of the work needed to complete preparations for the United Kingdom to leave the the bloc next March remains to be done, as sources say little progress was made in three weeks of talks to break the deadlock on the vexed Irish question.

Fresh doubts have been raised over Theresa May's hopes for a deal on future relations with Europe, after reports that her proposals for the Irish border have been comprehensively rejected in Brussels.

A legal draft of December's phase one agreement that formalised a "backstop" arrangement, whereby Northern Ireland would remain in a customs union with the EU if negotiators were unable to agree on a more elegant solution, was immediately rejected by Mrs May and the DUP in early March.

"No trickery is going to get her or her Government out of the hole they have dug for themselves in ruling out continued membership of the Customs Union and the Single Market".

He accused members of the House of Lords of "insulting the electorate's intelligence" by saying that people did not realise they were voting to leave the EU customs union when they voted for Brexit.

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Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Patten, who sponsored the key amendment on preparing to join a customs union with the EU after Brexit, was withering about current Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Liam Fox.

As a result Tory MP rebels moved to increase pressure on the PM by tabling a parliamentary motion on Thursday calling on the government to make being in a customs union with the EU a negotiating objective.

But, Remainers argue such a confidence vote gives them far more leverage, particularly after the Government repeatedly delayed a similar customs union vote in the House of Commons for fear of losing.

Speaking in London on Thursday, he suggested proposed economic solutions for avoiding a hard border were regarded as a non-starter because of the UK's decision to diverge from the European Union by leaving the single market.

"We have agreed that the areas covered in the draft must reflect those that meet our shared commitments".

Responding to the Telegraph report, former Treasury permanent secretary Lord Macpherson tweeted: "EU's position on Irish border so predictable".