Michel Barnier offers UK option to exit customs union, if hard border avoided

Michel Barnier offers UK option to exit customs union, if hard border avoided

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator appears to have offered some concessions to the British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Michel Barnier says the European Union will commit to giving the UK the option to leave the customs union, as long as a hard Irish border is avoided.

In a series of messages on Twitter, Michel Barnier said the EU had proposed a "legally binding interpretation" of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The arbitration panel envisaged the deal would give the UK the right to a "proportionate suspension of its obligations under the backstop, as a last resort" if the EU breached its obligations to use "best endeavours" and act in "good faith" to negotiate alternative solutions.

The EU was ready to give "legal force" to the commitments made in January's letter from Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, writing them into a "joint interpretative statement".

The UK would also be given the option to exit the single customs territory unilaterally "while the other elements of the backstop must be maintained to avoid a hard border".

"UK will not be forced into customs union against its will," he said.

He promised the EU will continue working intensively over the coming days to ensure that the UK leaves with a deal.

PA & Digital Desk

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