Britain tells EU to engage seriously on Brexit, EU demurs
* Foreign minister Hunt says UK won't capitulate
* May had demanded respect after Salzburg summit
* French minister: need to prepare for 'no deal' exit
* German deputy minister: don't play the blame game
(Adds Irish foreign minister)
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Britain said on Saturday it
would not capitulate in Brexit talks and again urged its EU
partners to engage with its proposals, as ministers in Paris and
Berlin suggested the next move in the negotiations should come
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday demanded new
proposals and respect from European Union leaders, saying after
a summit in Austria that talks had hit an impasse - a position
her foreign minister reinforced on Saturday, even if that meant
leaving the bloc next March without a deal.
"If the EU's view is that just by saying no to every
proposal made by the United Kingdom, we will eventually
capitulate and end up either with a Norway option or indeed
staying in the EU... then they've profoundly misjudged he
British people," Jeremy Hunt told BBC radio.
"We may be polite, but we have a bottom line. And so they
need to engage with us now in seriousness."
May's defiant statement was welcomed on Saturday by many in
the British press that had seen the Salzburg summit as a failure
for her. The Daily Express said it was "May's finest hour".
But initial reactions from across the English Channel
suggested France and Germany were digging in too.
EU leaders and May have said they want to get a deal agreed
in October, to be finalised in November.
In Paris, Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau
said that, while France still believed a good Brexit deal was
possible, it must also prepare for a 'no deal' outcome.
Britain's vote to leave "cannot lead to the EU going bust,"
she said on France Info radio. "...That's the message we have
tried to send for several months now to our British
counterparts, who may have thought we were going to say 'yes' to
whatever deal they came up with."
In Berlin, German Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth said
the other 27 EU states were striving to achieve reasonable
solutions. "The blame game against the EU is therefore more than
unfair. We can't solve the problems that are arising on the
island (Britain) due to Brexit," he said on Twitter.
In London, the Telegraph reported that May faced the
prospect of ministerial resignations next week if she failed to
come up with an alternative to the "Chequers" Brexit plan that
she presented in Austria.
After May's Friday statement, European Council President
Donald Tusk said that the results of the EU's analysis of that
plan had been known to Britain for many weeks. But Hunt said
there was a difference between rhetoric and substance.
"On the substance of the Chequers proposals, we have not had
a detailed response," he said, adding that EU proposals for the
Irish border would mean that it was impossible "to leave the EU
intact as one country".
May's Conservatives rely on a small pro-Brexit Northern
Irish party, the Democratic Unionists (DUP), for their governing
majority in parliament.
Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the DUP should
not have a veto on a "backstop" insurance policy to keep the
Irish border fully open for trade.
May has accepted the need for a backstop but says the EU's
version of the proposal would see Northern Ireland carved off
from the United Kingdom. The EU says May's proposal, keeping the
province and mainland Britain in the same regulatory space,
undermines the single market.
Despite the differences, Coveney told RTE radio an Irish
backstop was "doable" by an October summit.
BUMPY AND DIFFICULT
Hunt said Britain's economy would be able to withstand a
no-deal Brexit, saying it was "absolutely right" that many
Britons were now content to leave the EU without a deal.
Around 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the EU in a
referendum in 2016 and 48 percent to stay.
"Even in a situation where we aren't able to come to an
agreement, we would be trading on World Trade Organisation
terms. It would be bumpy, it would be difficult, but we would
find a way to survive and prosper as a country," Hunt said.
"We've had far bigger challenges in our history. But it's
not our desired outcome."
In Berlin, magazine Der Spiegel said Germany's government
expected the impact of a no-deal Brexit on its labour market to
be "relatively small". It cited a government response to a
request for information from the far-left Linke party.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; additiional reporting by Michel
Rose in Paris, Michelle Martin in Berlin and Conor Humphries in
Dublin; editing by John Stonestreet)
First Published: 2018-09-22 11:45:38
Updated 2018-09-22 13:46:08
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