ZAGREB, October 16, 2018 – Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is very engaged in the process of reaching an agreement on Great Britain’s leaving the European Union, but he is not happy about the fact that there was a referendum at all, British Ambassador to Croatia Andrew Dalgleish has told Croatian reporters.
He talked to reporters a day after intensive negotiations were held in Brussels about the British exit from the European Union and ahead of an EU emergency Brexit summit which is considered critical for an agreement on a divorce deal with Britain.
Asked about how he saw the role of the Croatian Prime Minister in the negotiations on Brexit, the British diplomat said he “is very engaged” in the process of having 27 member states and Great Britain reach an agreement.
Brussels and London hope to reach an agreement which will prevent Britain to leave the bloc on 29 March without a transitional period, which could cause chaos and economic difficulties to both sides. Time, however, is running out.
The biggest problem is how to avoid “the hard border” between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which will be the only land border between the EU and Great Britain after Brexit. The latest Brexit battleground is over whether the Northern Ireland should stay as a member of the European Union (EU) customs union, a proposal pushed by Brussels but rejected by London.
A customs union is an agreement that allows partaking countries to set common external tariffs, allowing goods to travel freely between those countries. The arrangement allows manufacturers to move goods and parts around the continent — which currently includes Britain and Northern Ireland — without cost or delay.
Dalgleish said it was unacceptable for Northern Ireland to remain part of the single market and thus create a customs barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. We cannot have a solution which would set up a border within our borders. There is no country in the world that has that, the Britton said.
He underscored that there must be a balance between European Union wishes regarding the respect for the integrity of the single market and the customs union and the needs of the United Kingdom regarding the respect for the integrity of its territory. We have an understanding about this issue and our negotiators are working on it, Dalgleish said. It is necessary to have a political will on both sides, he added.
Dalgleish explained that progress was made at talks on Sunday, however it was insufficient so it was decided to take a break until the summit. He underscored it was absolutely untrue that the negotiations have failed and expressed confidence an agreement would be reached in the end.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart Dominic Raab unexpectedly met in Brussels on Sunday. The media reported that a tentative deal on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement reached at technical level in Brussels Sunday collapsed following the Sunday meeting a meeting between the two.
The British Ambassador reiterated it was not true that the negotiations had collapsed. It is not the end of the world. The talks were good but there was no breakthrough, the Britton said.
European Union leaders will meet to discuss a possible Brexit deal with Britain in Brussels on October 17 and 18.
After their talks on Sunday, Barnier tweeted, “We met today (Dominic Raab) and UK negotiating team. Despite intense efforts, some key issues are still open, including the backstop for IE/NI to avoid a hard border.” He added that he would debrief the EU27 and the European Parliament on the state of the talks.