Secret border visit by David Davis showed contempt for politicians, says SF

Theresa May

The EU Withdrawal Bill sets the legal framework for Britain's exit from the bloc on March 29 next year, but faces an arduous battle in being approved by both Houses of Parliament, whose members predominantly oppose Brexit.

She said keeping Northern Ireland effectively in the customs union would create a new border between the province and mainland Britain.

The UK's Brexit secretary David Davis has said he would consider it a failure if the UK was forced to extend its membership of the EU customs union, amid mounting concern among MPs that time is running out for talks on alternative solutions.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator has told businesses to prepare for the possibility of the United Kingdom exiting the bloc without a transition period amid a stalemate over the Irish border issue.

But the House of Lords last week challenged May's refusal to remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit, and the lower chamber is expected to hold a follow-up vote next month.

Prime Minister Theresa May is under growing pressure to make a U-turn and keep the United Kingdom in the customs union after Brexit.

Those for staying in the custom union contend that cutting exchanging ties would seriously harm the United Kingdom economy. "It would show that the British really do want to stay close to Europe", a senior European Union diplomat told Reuters in Brussels.

"I think that's the massively, overwhelmingly probable outcome", he said.

The bloc's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has already suggested just that in his comments at the Hanover trade fair earlier this week. We promise never to rent or sell your e-mail address to any third party.

Following the short trip, during which Mr Davis was escorted by former senior police officer and Cooperation Ireland chief executive Peter Sheridan, he reiterated the Government's determination to avoid a hard border on the island. "We are open for business", Barnier said.

Lawmakers will have to decide whether to back the government or reject the agreement - with the risk that Britain could crash out of the European Union next year without any deal in place.

"The prime minister is absolutely clear: we are leaving the customs union and will be free to strike our own trade deals around the world", he said.

Supporters of staying in the customs union argue that it is the safest option for the economy as it will allow goods and trade to continue to flow without barriers when Britain leaves the EU.

MPs have expressed concern that such an approach will give them little time to scrutinise any deal struck before Brexit, and even then this would only be a political statement rather than a binding treaty.

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