Monday 23 July 2018

Brexit deal to avoid hard Border in North is labelled 'a fairytale'

Handout photo issued by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) of Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney (centre) with Chief Superintendent Philip Knox (left) and Chief Constable George Hamilton during a visit to the PSNI training college in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 7, 2018. See PA story ULSTER Politics. Photo credit should read: PSNI/PA Wire
NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Handout photo issued by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) of Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney (centre) with Chief Superintendent Philip Knox (left) and Chief Constable George Hamilton during a visit to the PSNI training college in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday February 7, 2018. See PA story ULSTER Politics. Photo credit should read: PSNI/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Shona Murray

The deal made between the UK and EU to avoid a hard Border in the North is a "fairytale", an EU source has told the Irish Independent.

Last December, the British government committed to maintaining all EU rules and regulations after Brexit so as to avoid a need for a major customs infrastructure between the North and the Irish State.

However, the UK's affirmation this week that it is to leave the customs union means customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Irish State are now inevitable.

It is a "fairytale to think" there will be no Border posts with the UK outside the customs union, said the EU source.

Only on "another planet" will the UK be able to do free trade agreements with other countries and have different standards without strong border control, they said.

Many EU diplomats, as well as former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, have said the pledge was a "fudge" designed to move the UK to the next phase in talks.

"The EU knows it, the UK knows it, the Irish know it," the EU source said.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney denied it was a "fudge".

Mr Coveney said it contained "clear commitments" and will be transformed into a legal text along with deals on other issues like EU citizens' rights and UK contributions to the Brussels budget by March.

He was responding to questions from Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who said pro-Brexit ministers in the British government have described as "absolute rubbish" any talk of UK rules being aligned with those of the EU.

"The matters that were negotiated on the Border were very clear," Mr Coveney added.

Meanwhile, disarray and a failed attempt by the London government to outline its ambition for an EU-UK relationship post-Brexit is causing major jitters in Dublin.

"The more time passes without clarity the more concerning it gets," an Irish source told the Irish Independent.

The UK cabinet's Brexit sub-committee as spent the week talking about the Northern Irish issue, among other Brexit items.

But most of the discussion has resulted in rancour and further rumours of a heave against Prime Minister Theresa May.

David Davis, the Brexit secretary, also accused Brussels of "discourtesy" and "bad faith" after it published its conditions for a two-year transitional period after the UK officially leaves the EU.

Read More: Davis says EU 'acting in bad faith' over plan to punish UK

"It remains to be seen what will emerge from the UK cabinet", but it is "critical" it spells out in legal detail the commitments made in December, an Irish official close to the situation said.

A Brexit impact assessment, conducted by the British, indicated that Northern Ireland's GDP will fall by up to 12pc if a UK-EU post-Brexit deal is not done.

The Taoiseach has warned that "time is running out", given the UK is set to exit next year. Leo Varadkar, who is in Vienna meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, said: "I am not losing patience but time is running out.

"March 2019 isn't all that far away now." Mr Varadkar said "it's 20 months since the referendum and around two decades since eurosceptics in Britain started seeking one".

"I think at this stage having clarity as to what the UK would like its new relationship to be like would be very welcome.

"But whatever happens, there are two things that we want to see reflected in any withdrawal agreement which is legally binding. First of all the commitments that we have to retain the common travel area... and also that we'll avoid a hard Border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland."

Mr Kurz, the youngest leader in Europe at 31, said: "We will support Ireland because it is in all our interests to find a solution to this delicate issue."

Irish Independent

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