BRITAIN is still “very confident” of a Brexit divorce deal with the EU, chancellor Philip Hammond said on Tuesday (5), a day after negotiations failed at the 11th hour to produce an agreement.
Prime minister Theresa May is scheduled to return to Brussels later in the week for “further discussions”, Hammond said, after an agreement on Monday (4) was scuppered by objections to plans for the Irish border from the DUP in Northern Ireland.
“This is a very complex set of negotiations. There are many moving parts in it, there are many parties involved, and we’re very confident we’ll be able to move this forward,” Hammond said as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
“We have made a lot of progress over the last weeks. We’ve made tremendous steps forward. We are very close but we’re not there yet,” he added.
Media reports last week revealed that Britain is preparing to pay about €50 billion (£44bn) to help to move on to talks on a future trade pact with the European Union.
An online poll carried out by research firm Survation and published in a Sunday newspaper last weekend (3) showed that half of Britons supported a second vote on whether to leave the EU.
A majority also thought the government may be paying too much money to the EU to open the way to trade talks.
In the first major opinion poll since the so-called EU divorce bill, the survey found that 11 per cent of 1,003 voters said Britain should pay the total sum to quit the bloc, while 31 per cent said the government should not pay anything at all.
Furthermore, 35 per cent of those surveyed said they would be worse off financially after Brexit, while 14 per cent said they would be better off.
Mike Smithson, an election analyst and a former Liberal Democrat politician, said on Twitter it was “the first time any pollster has recorded backing” for a second referendum.
However, Brexit supporters argue that any attempt to halt the exit process would be anti-democratic.
Since the vote in 2016, high-profile opponents of Britain’s exit, including French president Emmanuel Macron and former British prime minister Tony Blair, have suggested Britain could change its mind and avoid what they say will be disastrous for the UK economy.
Blair said last Sunday (3) he was trying to reverse Brexit because claims by the leave campaign, such as the NHS getting an extra £350 million a week once Britain leaves the EU, have been proved false.
The EU has warned May that Sunday (10) is deadline if she wants leaders to approve the opening of Brexit trade talks at a summit next Thursday and Friday (14-15).
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters that they “stand ready” for fresh talks with May “at any moment in time when London is ready”.
“We have a common understanding on most of the relevant issues but there are some topics still open which will need further consultation and negotiations,” Schinas said.
A deal between May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday had been widely touted after Britain approved a draft agreement that would have put Northern Ireland in “regulatory alignment” with EU-member Ireland.
Dublin wants Northern Ireland to follow the EU’s single market and customs rules after Brexit to avoid a “hard border”, which it fears could harm both the island’s economy and the two-decade-old peace process.
But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the staunchly pro-British group that props up May’s minority government in London, told May in a phone call that they would not accept the agreement.