Monday 27 January 2020

Government happy - but DUP and UK cry foul

DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: PA
DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: PA

Colm Kelpie

Q: What does the draft withdrawal agreement say about Ireland?

A: The section of the document dealing with Ireland is an extension of the deal agreed in December, and proposes that if a no-deal Brexit occurs, there would be a "common regulatory area" on the island of Ireland, which would essentially mean keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union even if the rest of the UK leaves it.

But it should be stressed that this is only in the case of a no-deal Brexit. The agreement reached in December envisages a free trade agreement between the UK and EU as being the best route to avoiding a hard Border.

If that isn't possible, the UK should come up with its own solutions.

But if neither occurs, then this provision would potentially kick in.

Q: I presume the unionists aren't too happy?

A: You presume correct. DUP leader Arlene Foster branded it "constitutionally unacceptable and would be economically catastrophic for Northern Ireland".

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will not countenance it, adding no UK prime minister could agree to it.

Q: Is the Government here happy?

A: Yes. Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the draft agreement simply gives effect to the commitments made in December.

Q: Well if Mrs May isn't happy, what now?

A: Good question. The document is a draft and will be circulated among the 27 member states.

Attention now shifts to Mrs May's Brexit speech tomorrow, when she will set out the UK's next steps.

Irish Independent

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