Earlier today, Mrs May reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to Europe’s security post-Brexit to 27 other national leaders before she became the the first Prime Minister to visit Macedonia in almost 20 years.

Mrs May then travelled to Skopje for talks and in a joint-media conference with Macedonian Prime Minister zoran Zaev, she said Britain is committed to having a smooth trade agreement with the European Union so they can also ensure they don’t have a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland enabling them to have an independent trade policy. 

She said: “We have been very clear that we will be leaving the customs union and in future outside of that customs union be able to develop our own independent trade policy

“As we look forward to developing our economic partnership with the European Union once we have left, it will be necessary for there to be arrangements as to how matters are to be dealt with across borders in relation to customs.

 

“We are committed in leaving the customs union and as we look to that future economic partnership, ensuring that we have a relationship that enables us to have as frictionless a trade with the European Union as possible.

“That we also deal with the issue in the Irish government that we do not have a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland but also that we are able to have an independent trade policy.

“That is what we will be doing and ensuring that at the end of the implementation period – as form the end of December 2020 – we will be able to operate an independent trade policy.”

Mrs May’s latest comments come after Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar revealed that she could in fact present an entirely different proposal for a future customs agreement between Britain and the the European Union post-Brexit.

Theresa May

Theresa May has insisted that Britain will leave the customs union after December 2020

After meeting with the Prime Minister at the summit in Sofia earlier today, Mr Varadkar said his British counterpart had given him fresh insight into its Brexit strategy. 

He described a “new thinking” by British negotiators and tat they could even offer a new cusoms proposal within the next two weeks. 

Mr Varadkar also hinted this could even be a softened approach from Mrs May, with Britain potentially agreeing to continue full customs alignment between the whole of the EU and the UK.

The Irish border issue continues to be Brexit’s biggest challenge, with the UK and EU yet to agree on anything other than no hard border must emerge. 

But Mr Varadkar had earlier heaped more pressure on Mrs May, telling the press on his way into the summit in Sofia the issue still threatens to collapse the entire negotations. 

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar said the Irish border issue still threatens the collapse of negotiations

He said: “If we are not making real and substantial progress by June then we need to seriously question whether we’re going to have a Withdrawal Agreement at all.

“We stand by the text of the Withdrawal Agreement and the text of the protocol published in March as does the taskforce and the 27 member states that are behind us.

“If the UK wants to put forward alternatives to that whether alternative text to the backstop or an alternative future relationship between the UK and the EU, we’re willing to examine that.

“But we need to see it written down in black and white and know that it is workable and legally operable. And we’ve yet to see anything that remotely approaches that.”

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