EU proposal on Irish border rejected by British

Theresa May rejects EU proposal of a “common regulatory area”, in regards to the Northern Ireland border. The proposal suggested that North Ireland would be considered part of the European customs territory.

Michael Barnier

Source: ©European Union 2017 - European Parliament

The practical problems of maintaining a ‘soft’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit appeared to deepen yesterday after Prime Minister Theresa May flatly rejected an EU proposal of a “common regulatory area”. 

Question of the Irish border

The proposal was contained in a draft legal agreement on Brexit, released in Brussels by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier. On the question of the Irish border, it detailed how the principle of “regulatory alignment”, agreed between the two sides in December, would be implemented if there was a failure to reach agreement on technological or diplomatic solutions to keep the border open.In such circumstances, the document says “the territory of Northern Ireland, excluding the territorial waters of the United Kingdom...shall be considered to be part of the customs territory of the (European) Union”.

Brexit negotiations continue slowly

It proposed that EU and UK customs authorities should jointly oversee movements between Northern Ireland and the British mainland, while Europe would retain control over aspects of taxation and state aid in Northern Ireland.Responding to the proposal in the House of Commons, Mrs May said, “The draft legal text the commission have published would, if implemented, undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, and no UK prime minster could ever agree to it.“I will be making it crystal clear to President Juncker and others that we will never do so.”For his part, Mr Barnier said the border proposal was a “backstop” position and not intended to provoke the UK. He said it was now up to the British government to come up with alternative proposals.He also signalled his frustration at the lack of progress in the Brexit negotiations, saying, “We must pick up the pace.” Mr Barnier also told reporters that agreement on a post-Brexit transition deal was “not a given”.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said later, “What is going on at the moment is that the issue of the Northern Irish border is being used quite a lot politically to try and keep the UK in the customs union – effectively the single market – so we cannot really leave the EU, that is what is going on.”Mr Johnson said there were technological solutions available “that would obviate, prevent any kind of hard border but would allow goods and people (to) move totally freely”.
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Reaction in Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reacted to the suggestion of a common regulatory area by saying it could be looked at in the same way as the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland.“Some people were trying to suggest in the last couple of weeks that we over-spun, or oversold what was achieved in December. I think people will see today that that charge from the opposition (parties in Ireland) and others is not correct,” he said.Mr Varadkar told Newstalk radio that his government’s preference was for a new relationship between the UK and EU that would be so close that a border was unnecessary.“It’s up to the UK to bring proposals to the table to make that possible and I hope that we will see some indication in Theresa May’s speech on Friday as to how they intend to do that,” Mr Varadkar said. “It’s not OK for people – whether it’s pro-Brexit politicians in Britain or people from parties in Northern Ireland – to just say ‘no’ now.”*On the question of the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, the draft rejected the British government’s idea that those arriving during the two-year transition period would be less generously than the three million-plus already in Britain.Mr Barnier said Brussels “cannot take any risk of regulatory divergence during the transition” and that the British position represented a “big point of divergence”.For related news and features, visit our Brexit section. Look out for the launch of 2018’s Relocate Awards, entry is now open. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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