Is Brexit Still Happening?

Ireland has pressed British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday to change the course of negotiations on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on the issue of the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland so that now-stalled talks can move forward.

May has warned that Ireland will “play tough to the end” over its threat to delay Brexit talks should no solution be found to the Northern Ireland border issue.

The issue of the Irish border – along with the “separation account” that Britain must pay to leave the bloc and the rights of European Union citizens affected by the Brexit – is a key obstacle that delays negotiations between London and Europe. The leaders of the bloc will not allow the negotiations to advance to more critical commercial areas until a “significant advance” has been achieved in these matters.

This setback has made the hard Brexit approach increasingly difficult, especially after an abysmal snap election for the Conservatives which saw their plural majority shrink from 48% to 42%, forcing a coalition with, ironically enough, the northern Irish party, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

David Davis, the Brexit secretary, has been summoned to explain to the Brexit committee why his department redacted key information from Brexit “analysis papers” that were handed over to parliament on Monday. Hilary Benn, the committee chair, said David should appear before it “very speedily indeed”. John Bercow, the speaker, implied the meeting should take place as soon as possible. He told MPs:

I think that. when it is suggested that that meeting should be soon, it means soon – it does not mean weeks hence, it means very soon indeed.

Nothing, no commitment, no other diarised engagement is more important than respecting the House and in this case the committee of the House which has ownership of this matter and to which the papers were to be provided.

Davis has come into conflict with the MPs for months for his initial refusal to publish market analysis on 58 sectors as a result of Brexit, arguing that it would undermine the UK’s position in negotiations. In October, the Bank of England claimed that Brexit could cost 75,000 financial jobs.

After losing a vote on a Labour motion in the House of Commons this month, Davis on Monday met a three-week deadline to hand over the information to the Commons Brexit select committee, chaired by Labour’s Hilary Benn.

Some Tories defended Davis’s decision not to hand all the Brexit impact assessment information to the selection committee. John Whittingdale, a pro-Brexit member of the committee, and former select committee chair said:

I understand these documents have been sent to two select committees of parliament and to the devolved administrations, and as a former chairman of the select committee I can say that leaks are not without precedent and I would not want the government to make available any information that if it became public it could undermine our negotiating position.

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