Monday 4th December looked like a day of chaos with the UK-EU Brexit negotiations. The UK Prime Minister (Theresa May) was in Brussels for a meeting with the European Commission President (Mr Jean-Claude Juncker) and she hoped for an agreement which would avoid a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. As the day progressed, news began to emerge that a formula had been found by which the UK would maintain "regulatory convergence" between Northern Ireland and the Republic and thus avoid the hard border that would be unacceptable to Dublin. (The precise nature of this convergence was not spelled out).
An obvious problem
with such an arrangement is that convergence in the island of Ireland would mean divergence with Scotland, England and Wales unless, of course, it was agreed with the EU that the same rules would apply to the entire UK (e.g. by UK remaining in the Single Market / Customs Union. Retaining membership of the SM / CU is anathema to some notable Conservative MPs).
Any deal resulting in such divergence was ruled out by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) with which the UK Conservative government is in a "confidence and supply" arrangement (see below). Also, it was hardly surprising that Scottish and Welsh politicians and even the Mayor of London took the view that if Northern Ireland could have a special arrangement with the EU then why couldn't they!
By mid-afternoon it was back to the drawing boards for Mrs May and her team though the brief press conferences given by Mrs May and Mr Juncker said that progress had been made and that talks would resume later in the week.
The EU has insisted that there must be "sufficient progress" on Ireland, Citizens' rights and the financial settlement before the European Council will agree to talks moving on to matters such as the future trading relationship. The Council next meets on 14th December.
Media reports - The Guardian 5th December, The Independent 4th December, Evening Standard (4th December), The Spectator (4th December) and Politico
Confidence and Supply:
The Conservative-DUP confidence and supply agreement was entered into following the June 2017 General Election and is available HERE
"The DUP agreed to support the government on all motions of confidence; and on the Queen’s
Speech; the Budget; finance bills; money bills, supply and appropriation
legislation and Estimates. In line with the parties’ shared priorities for negotiating a
successful exit from the European Union and protecting the country in
the light of recent terrorist attacks, the DUP
also agrees to support the government on legislation pertaining to the
United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union; and legislation
pertaining to national security. Support on other matters will be agreed on a case by case basis. The DUP agrees to support the government in votes in the UK Parliament, in line with this agreement."
The House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee has published reports on
Progress of Negotiations
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
The committee stage on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill continues
On Tuesday 5th December, Mr Davis told the House of Commons - " ..... I will take the opportunity to rebut one falsehood I saw being stirred
up by various of our political opponents yesterday: the suggestion that
we might depart the European Union but leave one part of the United
Kingdom behind, still inside the single market and customs union. That
is emphatically not something that the UK Government are considering....."
This "Urgent Question" and the debate may be read HERE