EU Will Offer ‘Package’ to Help May, Irish Foreign Minister Says

(Bloomberg) -- Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the European Union will offer a “package” of measures to help Prime Minister Theresa May get a Brexit deal over the line, but would accept no “unreasonable” British demands.

Coveney said the bloc’s assistance could include making assurances and clarifications on the so-called Irish backstop -- the provision for the post-Brexit Irish border -- legally binding where possible. He reiterated, however, that the U.K.-EU withdrawal agreement couldn’t be reopened.

His comments come after Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay privately told the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, the U.K. doesn’t need to reopen the divorce agreement and would accept other ways to address British concerns, according to a person familiar with the talks said.

That’s likely to enrage Brexiteers in May’s Conservative Party, who want her to demand a re-write of the Brexit accord to strip out the backstop -- and are prepared for Britain to leave the EU on March 29 without a deal if she can’t.

Coveney described the prospect of a no-deal Brexit as “crazy” and said if it happened, the U.K. may have to stay aligned to EU rules to avoid a hard border returning. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told German Chancellor Angela Merkel his government couldn’t accept border controls even if the U.K. crashed out of the bloc, a person familiar with the matter said.

The EU is open to delaying Brexit via an extension of Article 50, Coveney said, but only if the U.K. showed it had a plan to move forward.

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