Friday 23 March 2018

Impasse over solution to avoiding hard border in NI after Brexit deepens further

Taoiseach says the UK government must outline
Taoiseach says the UK government must outline "alternative proposals"

Shona Murray in Cavan

The impasse over the solution to avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland after Brexit has deepened further.

The Taoiseach says the UK government must outline "alternative proposals" on preventing a physical infrastructure being erected in the north of the country, before Ireland will agree to move to post-Brexit trade negotiations.

Ireland’s position is for "the United Kingdom or Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom" to remain in a customs union arrangement after Brexit.

According to a leaked EU paper, there can be no divergence on standards or regulation from what exists currently otherwise a customs border will be inevitable.

"The way we think that can be achieved is for the United Kingdom or Northern Ireland continuing to abide by and respect the rules and regulations of the customs union and the single market", the Taoiseach told journalists at the Fine Gael conference in Cavan this afternoon.

However, British Brexit Minister David Davis is insisting there will be no alternative arrangement for Northern Ireland as it would test Britain’s "constitutional and economic integrity".

Read more: Article 50 author tells Theresa May to admit that Brexit can be stopped

The UK also insists it will leave both the customs union and the single market after Brexit.

Negotiations between the EU and UK resumed in Brussels this week after a revised deadline of December had been set for "sufficient progress" to be made on key issues before trade talks could begin.

Asked if he will use Ireland’s veto to delay talks until the Northern Ireland issue is resolved satisfactorily, Mr. Varadkar said: "I’m not in the business of laying down ultimatums" or "threatening vetoes."

However, the Irish paper is the only proposal put forward so far and the British government has not been forthcoming with any plan on resolving the matter.

"If there is an alternative proposal from the UK side, we would like to see it, said the Taoiseach.

"It is 18 months since the referendum; its 10 years since people started agitating for a referendum, they must at this stage have a counter-proposal", he said.

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