North should remain in single market, says EU parliament

(Stock photo)

Colm Kelpie

The European Parliament has signalled that Northern Ireland should remain in the single market and customs union post-Brexit, even if the rest of the UK withdraws.

In a draft motion, signed off by the heads of the various political groupings, MEPs said the parliament "strongly believes" that it is the responsibility of the UK government to "provide a unique, effective and workable solution that prevents a hardening of the border". It said this must ensure it complies fully with the Good Friday Agreement, and keeps the integrity of the internal market and customs union.

The motion also states that it notes that British Prime Minster Theresa May, in her speech in Florence last week, excluded any physical infrastructure on the Border.

This, MEPs state, "presumes that the United Kingdom stays in the internal market and customs union or that Northern Ireland stays in some form in the internal market and customs union".

The British government has ruled out the idea that Northern Ireland remains in the customs union and the single market as it would effectively place a border down the middle of the Irish Sea.

It is also strongly opposed by Unionists in Northern Ireland.

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson told the 'Belfast Telegraph' that such an arrangement would deny British sovereignty in the North and would breach the Good Friday Agreement. Mr Nicholson said: "Keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union and single market, with the rest of the UK outside, would place an international border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and breach the national sovereignty of the UK over Northern Ireland.

"It would seriously harm our trading relationship with our most important market, a market in which we are at present fully integrated and which forms part of our own country."