EU’s Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said on Saturday that most obstacles blocking a final Brexit deal could be overcome if British Prime Minister Theresa May rolls back on a promise of leaving the EU’s customs union.
“If Mrs May rolled back on her red line of exiting the customs union, most of the outstanding obstacles to a deal would be swept away,” said Hogan, a former Irish government minister, in an opinion for the Irish Independent newspaper.
Hogan also urged the lawmakers in the British parliament, who earlier this week rejected May’s draft Brexit deal by 230 votes, to “drop the fanciful rhetoric and start speaking the plain, unvarnished truth.”
The comments come as May has shown no sign of dropping her so-called “red line” on Brexit, including her position on the customs union and a mutual mechanism for administration of the Irish border after Brexit, which is known as the backstop.
The Telegraph newspaper said Saturday that May had remained faithful to her stances while trying to convince European leaders to make changes to the backstop so that the Brexit deal could pass the British parliament.
The report said May had spoken with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish leader Leo Varadkar after the Brexit defeat in the parliament.
During the discussions, the report said, May repeated her demands on the backstop, saying it should become time-limited with an option for Britain to withdraw unilaterally or there should be a commitment to a trade deal finalization before 2021 to prevent the backstop from coming into force.
There was no mention, however, that May could accept EU’s pressure for a permanent UK presence in the bloc’s customs union after Brexit.
Former British prime minister John Major also urged May on Saturday to give up her red lines on Brexit or allow the lawmakers in the House of Commons to find a way to avoid a no-deal Brexit on March 29.
Major, UK Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, said May had no option but to give up her opposition to key issues in the negotiations if she wanted to avoid a disorderly Brexit.
“If we leave in chaos and without a deal, that seems to me to be the worst of all outcomes,” Major told BBC Radio.