Member States push for more generous EU no-deal offer

Some EU countries are pushing for the European Union's no-deal legislation to be more generous to the UK • The Irish border issue remains unresolved as Irish prime minister says it will be 'very difficult' to do trade deals after Brexit without a solution

The UK will leave the EU on 29 March, 2019
The UK will leave the EU on 29 March, 2019

Some EU countries are pushing for the European Union's no-deal legislation to be more generous to the UK.

The European Commission has proposed "bare bones" arrangements on aviation and road haulage if there is no deal.

The legislation would allow British truckers to carry goods into the EU and British airlines to fly in and out of the EU, from 29 March to 31 December.

But a group of countries want to give UK hauliers the right to operate within the EU as well, known as cabotage.

Some also want British airlines to be able to offer connecting flights within the EU.

Diplomats are also concerned that airlines will not be able to offer new routes or run more services because the number of flights would be capped at 2018 levels.

The issues were discussed at a meeting of member states' ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday.

Officials will try to hammer out a compromise at a meeting on Friday and ambassadors will discuss it again next week.

"We've got to strike a balance between being prepared but not sending the message to the UK that no deal would be OK," a diplomat said.

The European Commission, which coordinates planning for no deal at a European level, as opposed to expanding the scope of the legislation, saying it would give the UK some of the benefits of membership of the single market.

The commission also urged member states not to engage in bilateral deals with the UK, which some countries have suggested because much of the responsibility for these issues rests with national governments.

Details of the discussion are contained in a diplomatic note of a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday.

At least one country asked whether the EU should consider additional contingency measures to guarantee co-operation on security issues, such as the Schengen Information System which is used to share information about stolen goods and people of interest.

The news will cheer supporters of a no-deal Brexit, who argue that the EU would be prepared to offer mini-deals with the UK if the withdrawal agreement it has negotiated with the UK is not approved.

However the UK will find it "very difficult" to do trade deals after Brexit if it has not resolved the Irish border issue, the Irish prime minister has said

Varadkar said that by contrast, Ireland would continue to benefit from the EU's trade deals.

He said, "In a no-deal scenario, the UK won't have any trade deals with anyone.

"I think it will be very difficult for them to conclude any trade deals with the question of the Irish border unresolved."

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Varadkar said the solution to the border was to ratify the deal agreed between the UK and the EU.

He again said that if the UK leaves without a deal, the EU and Ireland would still want an agreement with similar provisions as the Irish border backstop.

The backstop is effectively an insurance policy to avoid a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, if no other solution can be found through a wider trade deal with the EU.

"I think we would end up in a situation where EU and Ireland and the UK would have to come together and in order to honour our commitment to the people of Ireland that there be no hard border, we would have to agree on full alignment on customs and regulations," said Varadkar.

"So after a period of chaos, we would perhaps end up where we are now, with a very similar deal."

More in Europe