World

UK PM May struggles to find support

By AAP Newswire

British Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to find consensus on Brexit proposals that would be acceptable to her ministers, her Conservative Party and the Northern Irish lawmakers who prop up her minority government.

Brexit negotiations with the European Union have accelerated and become more positive over the past week, though significant hurdles remain, finance minister Philip Hammond said.

"What has happened over the last week, 10 days, is that there has been a measurable change in pace," he told the BBC.

"But that shouldn't conceal the fact that we still have some big differences left to resolve," Hammond said.

"So process is a lot more positive this week - substance still very challenging."

With less than six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU, May is seeking to rally support at home on the details of a divorce deal though it is unclear if she can win parliament's approval for any agreement.

British and EU negotiators are making headway on the Irish border issue, the biggest hurdle to an overall agreement, and hope for a Brexit deal breakthrough on Monday, diplomats said.

The Irish border "backstop", seeks a way to avoid customs checks on the frontier between the British province of Northern Ireland and Ireland.

As both sides seek to clinch a deal, the United Kingdom will publish on Friday more of its so-called technical notices which lay out the impact of a no-deal Brexit on specific sectors of the economy.

May's Northern Irish supporters vehemently oppose any checks between the province and mainland Britain after Brexit.

The head of the Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster, said May "could not in good conscience" back an EU proposal for checks on goods being imported to Northern Ireland from Britain after Brexit.

May will never agree to a backstop plan that means Britain could be permanently tied to the bloc's customs rules, her spokeswoman said on Friday.

"The prime minister would never agree to a deal which could trap the UK in a backstop permanently," she said.

The Times newspaper reported May was warned the issue was so serious that she could face further cabinet resignations unless she found a way to ensure the backstop was not permanent.