Done in 60 seconds - EU leaders confirm "no substantial progress" on Irish border

The UK Government is due to publish a white paper on its future relationship with the EU

Done in 60 seconds - EU leaders confirm "no substantial progress" on Irish border

European Council President Donald Tusk speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels, 29-06-2018. Image: Virginia Mayo/AP/Press Association Images

Updated 20:30

EU leaders took "less than a minute" to confirm their stance on Brexit negotiations – with leaders continuing to demand clarity from the British Government.

Leaders worked through the night to reach an agreement on migration – eventually announcing a deal at 5am this morning.

However, it took them less than 60 seconds to agree this afternoon that “no substantial progress” had been made regarding a backstop solution for the Irish border.

Speaking after the summit, European Council president Donald Tusk warned Mrs May "this is the last call to lay the cards on the table."

"There's a great deal of work ahead and the most difficult tasks are still unresolved," he said.

"Unrealistic"

Following the meeting, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the EU is willing to make a special case for Northern Ireland in Brexit negotiations – but warned it would be “unrealistic” for the backstop to apply to the UK as a whole.

“The European Union is willing to make concessions; willing to make a special case for Northern Ireland; willing to give it special treatment if you like because of the fact that it is a small place – less than two million people and because of its unique history and geography,” he said.

“But that special treatment, that special access to the single market, all of those things unfortunately can’t be on offer to the UK as a whole.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a media conference at the EU summit in Brussels, 29-06-2018. ImageVirginia Mayo/AP/Press Association Images

White Paper

This afternoon, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he had received an outline of what will be included in the upcoming UK Government whitepaper on Brexit.

The document will outline what British officials expect the future relationship between the UK and the EU to look like.

The details are due to be finalised at a special meeting of British Cabinet ministers at Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chequers country retreat next week.

The Taoiseach said he will wait for it to be published before commenting on the detail:

“The Prime Minister gave me an outline of the White Paper that she is going to publish; which is the UK’s view on what the new relationship between the UK and the EU should look like after the implementation phase – so the final status treaty if you like,” he said.

“But obviously I said we would engage on that when it was published.”

Unity

Following the EU agreement this afternoon, Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat suggested the quick decision on Brexit showed the "EU can still work together," following the divisions over migration that dogged Thursday night's marathon discussions at a European Council summit in Brussels.

He posted on Twitter: "Almost 9 hours to approve #MigrationEU conclusions, not even 1 minute to approve #Brexit conclusions."

Backstop

On his arrival at the summit on Friday morning, chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned that "time is very short" to conclude a deal.

He warned that a "huge and serious" gap remains between the EU and UK - in particular on the Irish border.

"We have made progress but huge and serious divergence remains, in particular on Ireland and Northern Ireland,” he said.

"After Brexit the EU wants an EU-UK ambitious partnership, on trade as well as on security.

"But we have to base this partnership on our values and our principles, respecting also the UK red lines."

Mr Barnier added he was waiting on Mrs May to publish the white paper outlining her detailed Brexit plans on 9th July.

Mrs May has insisted that she cannot accept EU proposals for the backstop solution to avoid a return to a hard border – however her government has failed to put forward any viable alternative.

Concluding the Brexit discussions this afternoon, EU leaders said the European Council "insists on the need for intensified efforts" to ensure a legally enforceable backstop arrangement is included in the UKs withdrawal agreement in October.

Security

Among other outstanding issues on the UK's withdrawal agreement, EU leaders welcomed "further progress" but noted the application of the deal to Gibraltar "still needs to be agreed."

"This requires further clarity as well as realistic and workable proposals from the UK as regards its position on the future relationship," the EU leaders stated.

They also repeated an offer that, if Mrs May ditches her Brexit red lines on the single market, customs union and European Court of Justice, they will "be prepared to reconsider" their offer on a future relationship.

Mrs May reportedly used her speaking time at the summit’s working dinner on Thursday to plead with EU leaders to consider the safety of their citizens regarding security co-operation after Brexit.

Mr Varadkar, however, raised doubts over whether she had managed to land her point.

Asked for his thoughts on her comments, he asked reporters, "There was a speech?"

Reporting from IRN ...