The EU’s preliminary plan for trade with a post-Brexit UK will likely be presented to European diplomats at a meeting in Brussels today.
While it is unclear what exactly the EU will offer Britain, the fact that it is even willing to discuss trade is a concession; the bloc originally demanded a withdrawal agreement of some kind before commencing discussions on the future relationship. It is likely that the EU will offer Britain a free trade agreement to encourage London to make compromises on the Irish border and also assist Theresa May in garnering domestic support for any Brexit plan.
Even with the EU’s concessions, Mrs May will struggle to present an acceptable arrangement for the Irish border. Indeed, May cannot offer the EU different regulations for the Irish border than for the rest of the UK; the North Irish Democratic Unionist Party, whose support she needs to govern, has rejected that arrangement.
A possible resolution to the impasse could be the use of technology to make customs checks smoother, thereby mitigating the threat of a “hard border”, but such a plan may not be wholly reliable with Brexit only 175 days away.
Alex is a senior analyst in the Current Developments team with a primary focus on the Americas. He also serves as an editor on The Daily Brief.