Sunday 16 December 2018

Brexit minister questions how EU will be able to ensure 'sufficient flexibility' to avoid a hard border

Simon Coveney shakes hands with Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley
Simon Coveney shakes hands with Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley

Colm Kelpie

The UK’s junior Brexit minister has questioned how the European Union will be able to ensure “sufficient flexibility” to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

Robin Walker told the House of Lords EU Committee that the EU is operating in a “less flexible framework” than the UK.

“So I think the question is, how can they ensure that there is sufficient flexibility to deliver the creative solutions that they have talked about?” Mr Walker asked.

“That is the challenge for the EU in these negotiations. We will absolutely take our responsibilities very, very seriously to protect all our commitments, including no hard border. But I think the key challenge for the EU is to ensure that they have sufficient flexibility to do so.”

Mr Walker appeared before the committee alongside newly installed Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley.

Ms Bradley told peers that she found it untenable that there would be different rules between Northern Ireland and the Republic post Brexit when it comes to agricultural production.

“One of the facts that I have learned over the last two weeks is that there are more border crossings between Northern Ireland and Ireland than the whole eastern side of the European Union,” Ms Bradley said.

“There are fields where the border goes through it. If we are talking about agriculture production, it simply isn’t tenable to have different rules from one side of the field to the other. And we are all pragmatic about that.”

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