Our response to EU Commission on Ireland and Northern Ireland

Violet Powell
September 10, 2017

The paper adds that the Good Friday Agreement needs to protected "in all its parts" - including the Common Travel Area and avoiding a hard border.

Drafts of position papers related to the Brexit process and post Brexit immigration policy have been published or leaked and have come in for severe criticism from various quarters, but more of that another time.

Discussions over Britain's exit from the European Union have also made little headway so far on the other two issues that the European Union wants resolved, namely citizens' rights and the divorce bill Britain will have to pay when it leaves the bloc in March 2019.

People and goods now move freely across the Irish border, but there are concerns that, as Britain's only land frontier with the European Union, this can not be sustained after Brexit in March 2019.

A spokesman for the Brexit department said: "The UK looks forward to further engagement through the negotiating dialogue we have established with the Commission". "And that is for the United Kingdom to remain in an extended Customs Union and Single Market, or some version of that concept, taking advantage of the new and comprehensive trade deals the EU is reaching with countries like Canada and Japan".

But, the European Union has also reminded Britain that negotiations can only move on when it rules "sufficient progress" has been made on issues of citizens' rights and the UK's financial obligations.

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"All this could be avoided if the British government took the sensible decision, on leaving the EU, to remain in the single market or at least the customs union".

And the UK wants to use Ireland as a kind of test case for the future EU-UK customs relations.

On Monday, after a meeting with the Republic of Ireland's foreign minister, Simon Coveney, Mr Barnier restated his aim to resolve the question of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border ahead of trade talks.

He was expected to say: "In my view the only way of resolving the border conundrum is for Northern Ireland to be within the same customs union and single market as the Republic - either Northern Ireland alone or preferably with the whole of the United Kingdom". "We've got to go straight to national governments and indeed European companies to say a trade deal is in everyone's interest".

Most of the position papers are an attempt by Brussels to clear up what will happen to the flow of individual business transactions that start before Brexit but end after the divorce.

It will also, Michel Barnier said, be the guide for whether the Commission feels "sufficient progress" has been made on the Irish issues to move on to phase two.

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