Labour Attacks May’s EU Negotiations as ‘Embarrassment' to U.K.

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s opposition Labour Party called Brexit Secretary David Davis to answer questions from lawmakers following the collapse of divorce talks, with their spokesman Keir Starmer calling negotiations a national “embarrassment.’’

Negotiations in Brussels fell apart after reports that Prime Minister Theresa May proposed treating Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the U.K. after the split. Draft proposals would have kept rules in Northern Ireland aligned with those of the Republic. That was a red line for the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 lawmakers prop up May’s minority government in London, because it would probably have meant a border between the province and mainland Britain.

“If the price of the prime minister’s approach is the breakup of the union, opening up a bitter divide in Northern Ireland, then the price is too high,’’ Starmer said. "The DUP tail is wagging the Tory dog.”

The proposal was designed to meet Ireland’s demand that there be no border on the island of Ireland after Brexit. The invisible border is only possible now because of the EU customs union and single market. Any proposal to avoid imposing a hard border will inevitably be unacceptable to at least one party.

"Progress has been made, but we have not yet reached a final conclusion,’’ Davis told lawmakers, in reply to Starmer. “I believe we are now close to concluding the first phase of negotiations." He added the idea of leaving part of the U.K. in the single market or customs union, “is emphatically not something the U.K. is considering."

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