Post-Brexit Irish border proposals ‘will not work’

The complex nature of the Irish border continues to trouble Brexit negotiations, after Brussels rejected the UK’s latest proposals for a solution.

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British press reports on Friday claimed that Brussels had rejected the UK’s proposals for resolving the Irish border problem after Brexit and that MPs in Westminster were getting increasingly frustrated over government delays in formulating a new immigration policy.

Disagreement over Irish border solution

The Daily Telegraph reported that, at a meeting between British and EU negotiators, London’s plans for avoiding a ‘hard border’ between the Republic of Ireland and Ulster after Brexit had received “a detailed and forensic rebuttal” by Brussels.Quoting an unnamed EU official, the ‘paper said EU representatives had made it clear that “none of the UK customs options will work – none of them”.The UK government favours a continued, close economic relationship between the two sides in Ireland with technological solutions rendering customs checks unnecessary. But Brussels appears to agree with Sir Ivan Rogers, Britain’s former EU ambassador, who this week described a technological solution as being regarded as “a Fantasy Island unicorn model” in Europe.
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Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said this week that there could be no Brexit transition deal without resolution of the Irish border question. His comments enhanced concerns in London that Brussels favours Northern Ireland remaining in the single market and customs union, effectively creating a border down the middle of the Irish Sea – a position the UK government has flatly ruled out.According to the Telegraph, EU negotiators have now proposed that the UK as a whole – not just Northern Ireland – should adhere to “full compliance” with EU rules on goods and agricultural products to avoid customs barriers.A government spokesman said, “We have been clear that we will protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market. That commitment was set out in December’s Joint Report, which also includes our guarantee of avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”

Increasing tension over Brexit solutions

In an interview with RTE on Friday, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the UK government’s approach to the border problem “defies logic”.Describing the current impasse as “a very critical period in the negotiations”, he said the onus was on the UK to come up with proposals for keeping the border open. “It defies logic to me as to how that is going to happen. But we have to await the ingenuity of the Brits,” he said.Meanwhile, The Times reported frustration within the UK Cabinet over delays in publishing the government’s proposals for new immigration arrangements after Brexit. The Migration Advisory Committee is due to publish its review in September but Home Secretary Amber Rudd has recently revealed that a new immigration bill – originally expected last summer – would not now be introduced until early in 2019.The Times quoted one unnamed source as saying Ms Rudd seemed to think she could “take as long as she likes”, while an unnamed “ally” of Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey was quoted as saying, “We’re eager to get on with it.”It is a message oft repeated by British business groups, who are increasingly anxious to know the arrangements for acquiring the overseas skills and labour they will need after Brexit.
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