>> With the expertise of the->> Is this document a reality check or provocation? Brussels announced its catchily titled preliminary draft withdrawal treaty on Wednesday. It's 120 pages of legalese, setting out the EU negotiating stance and its view of the state of play in talks so far. And the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said there wouldn't be any Brexit-shaped surprises.
>> These points have been already agreed between the EU and the UK.>> And yet this is the reaction it drew from the British Prime Minister in Parliament shortly afterwards.>> And no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to it.>> The out correlates to conditions demanding a common regulatory area across the whole of Ireland in the worst case scenario that Brussels and Britain reach no other deal.
And as Reuters Alastair Macdonald explains, that would essentially give Northern Ireland different trading rules to the rest of the UK.>> What this draft effectively says is that Northern Island would essentially remain in the EU, at least in terms of economic regulation, in terms of customs arrangements. It would effectively be in a customs union with the Irish Republic and the other 26 states that will still be in the EU after Britain leaves next year.
>> That angers the Northern Irish Unionists propping up Theresa May's fragile conservative government. They want a soft border, but no deal that cuts off the territory from the mainland. After an apparent breakthrough last December between the UK and the EU, this row could threaten the progress of negotiations.
>> The response in London from British Prime Minister Theresa May and from her allies in Northern Ireland in Belfast has been so angry that one might worry that this could actually put things back somewhat. There is a sense that the rhetoric on both sides has become considerably sharper over the past few days.
>> And as Barnier was keen to point out.>>
> With exactly 13 months until Brexit day, time is running out.