The Latest: EU rejects time limit on Irish backstop


LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain’s talks to leave the European Union (all times local):

1:45 p.m.

Lawmakers handling Brexit for the European Parliament are urging British Prime Minister Theresa May to inform her EU partners how she plans to advance the deadlocked process and what she wants from them.

The EU parliament’s Brexit Steering Group said Thursday that it “expects the U.K. side to come back as quickly as possible with a positive and viable proposal on the way forward.”

The senior lawmakers say the legally-binding withdrawal agreement that would govern Britain’s departure cannot be renegotiated, especially the safeguard mechanism to keep the Irish border open.

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They insist that “without such an ‘all-weather’ backstop-insurance, the European Parliament will not give its consent to the withdrawal agreement.”


1:30 p.m.

The European Commission is starting legal action against Britain over tax breaks it grants to commodities traders, barely two months ahead of the UK’s planned departure from the European Union.

EU Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said Thursday that “up to now the UK is still a member of the EU so we just treat them like all the others are treated.”

The Financial Times wrote that the Commission would take Britain to the EU’s highest court over the tax breaks, potentially damaging competitiveness of the City of London, Britain’s financial center, after Brexit.

There were fears that the move would acerbate already fraught relations between both sides over Britain’s departure, which is still scheduled for March 29.

In starting legal proceedings, Thyssen said, the Commission could not take such issues into account. “We don’t make a difference between one member state and another,” she said.


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1:15 p.m.

The House of Lords may have found a silver lining in the possibility of Britain crashing out of the European Union in a “no-deal” Brexit — the prospect of less expensive alcohol.

It came up Thursday in tongue-in-cheek fashion in Parliament’s upper chamber when former Cabinet minister Norman Tebbit said that the head of the popular Wetherspoon pub chain has stopped buying brandy from France in favor of “better and cheaper” brandy from Australia.

While some Lords laughed and jeered, Tebbit said customers were getting better deals and the company was making more profit.

The premise that inexpensive Australian brandy is of higher quality than French brandy was almost immediately challenged.


9:45 a.m.

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is rejecting the possibility of putting a time limit on the “backstop” option for the Irish border, saying it would defeat the purpose.

Barnier told Deutschlandfunk radio Thursday ahead of meetings in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the whole point of the backstop was to provide credible insurance for Ireland that there would be no hard border.

He also rejected the possibility of a deal on the border being negotiated by London directly with Dublin, saying through a translator: “It’s not just about Ireland. Every item that crosses from Great Britain over the northern border into Ireland is also entering the common market, so it’s not only about Ireland, it’s about Germany, France, Poland — it’s about the whole common market.”


9:05 a.m.

The chief executive of Airbus has warned it could move its U.K. operations out of the country in the event there is a departure from the European Union without a deal.

Tom Enders issued a sharply worded statement Thursday, flatly warning that Brexit is threatening to destroy a century of development in the United Kingdom, a global leader in aviation. He declared that the country now stands at a precipice.

Enders urged the country not to “listen to the Brexiteers’ madness which asserts that, because we have huge plants here, we will not move and we will always be here. They are wrong.”

Airbus has more 14,000 employees in Britain with a further roughly 110,000 working in jobs supported by Airbus programs.

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