Friday 19 October 2018

Breakdown in Brexit talks now more likely than ever

Ireland's Brexit strategy should be about damage limitation. Pushing for damage elimination could be the worst option, writes Dan O'Brien

BORDER PATROL: European Union negotiator Michel Barnier turned against suggestions of a UK-wide backstop. Photo: Francois Leno/Reuters
BORDER PATROL: European Union negotiator Michel Barnier turned against suggestions of a UK-wide backstop. Photo: Francois Leno/Reuters

The chasm between the position of the Irish Government and the EU on how Brexit affects the Border on this island and the UK government's position is yawning wider than ever. That was highlighted by events last week. Thursday's six-page paper published by the cabinet office in London committed to keeping all of the UK in the EU's customs union for yet another additional year and possibly longer.

The Irish side was diplomatic in not dismissing the proposals - it has, after all, been calling on the British to put ideas down on paper for months. But the non-permanent nature of the commitment made it hard for the Irish Government to accept, given the position it has taken to date.

Last Friday, Michel Barnier, the man leading the Brexit negotiations on behalf of the EU, made a more fundamental objection. He said only Northern Ireland could be covered by a "backstop" arrangement.

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