Eu says ir­ish to have fi­nal say on brexit bor­der

Dublin says the best way is to keep reg­u­la­tions the same on both sides of a bor­der.

The Sunday Guardian - - World - REUTERS

The key to Bri­tish hopes of mov­ing on to talks on trade ties with the Euro­pean Union after it quits the bloc lies in Dublin, the Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent said on Fri­day as Ire­land called for “cred­i­ble” so­lu­tions from Lon­don for the Ir­ish bor­der.

Avoid­ing a re­turn to a “hard bor­der” on the is­land of Ire­land is the last ma­jor hur­dle be­fore Brexit talks can ad­vance to trade ties and a pos­si­ble two-year Brexit tran­si­tion deal.

But Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk that while the EU ne­go­ti­at­ing team rep­re­sents the in­ter­ests of the 27 other mem­bers, Ire­land will have the fi­nal say on the bor­der is­sue.

“Let me say very clearly: if the UK of­fer is un­ac­cept­able for Ire­land, it will also be un­ac­cept­able for the EU,” Tusk said in Dublin at a joint press con­fer­ence with Ir­ish Prime Min­is­ter Leo Varad­kar.

“The key to the UK’s fu­ture lies—in some ways—in Dublin, at least as long as Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tinue.”

Tusk con­firmed he had given Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May a dead­line of Mon­day to make a fi­nal of­fer on Ir­ish bor­der con­di­tions be­fore EU heads of gov­ern­ment de­cide whether there is “suf­fi­cient progress” on a UK-EU di­vorce set­tle­ment to merit open­ing talks on the fu­ture re­la­tion- ship.

If Lon­don meets the three key EU con­di­tions on its fi­nan­cial bill for leav­ing, the rights of ex­pa­tri­ate cit­i­zens and the bor­der, then lead­ers could give a green light to trade talks at the sum­mit on 14-15 De­cem­ber.

With sig­nif­i­cant head­way on the fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment and ci­ti­zen rights now ap­par­ently in the bag, a deal on the Ir­ish bor­der ap­pears to be the fi­nal hur­dle.

The po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic stakes are high.

The econ­omy of Ire­land, north and south, has be­come deeply in­te­grated since the EU sin­gle mar­ket’s cre­ation in 1993, and only road signs now mark the fron­tier. Free-flow­ing commerce, to­gether with the 1998 peace deal be- tween North­ern Ire­land’s Protes­tants and Catholics, has trans­formed pre­vi­ously ne­glected ar­eas on both sides of the bound­ary.

Varad­kar said that while progress on the bor­der is­sue had been made, the next few days would be cru­cial and that Ire­land would not be afraid to use its veto if nec­es­sary.

“The UK must of­fer cred­i­ble, con­crete and work­able so­lu­tions that guar­an­tee that there will be no hard bor­der...what­ever the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship be­tween the EU and the UK is,” he said. “I‘m an op­ti­mist by na­ture...How­ever I‘m also pre­pared to stand firm with our part­ners if need be...if the UK of­fer falls short.”

Be­fore it can sign off on the first phase, Dublin wants May to spell out in writ­ing how she in­tends to make good on a com­mit­ment to avoid turn­ing the clock back to a bor­der of cus­toms and se­cu­rity checks. It says the best way to do so is to keep reg­u­la­tions the same on both sides of a bor­der that will be the UK’s only land bound­ary with the EU after Brexit.

May’s gov­ern­ment has said Bri­tain will leave the EU’s sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union but wants the Ir­ish bor­der to re­main open, a stance that EU of­fi­cials say is con­tra­dic­tory. Ear­lier on Fri­day Ir­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Simon Coveney said a deal on the bor­der was ”doable“but that the sides were ”not there yet. Coveney said ne­go­tia­tors were work­ing to find “sen­si­ble word­ing”, drafts of which were be­ing ex­changed. Dublin, he said, will in­sist “there will be no fudge”.

May’s room to of­fer ad­di­tional con­ces­sions to Dublin ap­peared ex­tremely lim­ited when the pro-Brexit North­ern Ire­land party prop­ping up her gov­ern­ment on Thurs­day hinted it might with­draw its sup­port if she gives up too much.

But Coveney said the Ir­ish gov­ern­ment and the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party (DUP) agreed on far more than it dis­agreed on.

May is also un­der pres­sure from Bri­tish busi­ness lead­ers who want con­fir­ma­tion of a tran­si­tion deal so they have time to adapt to the new re­la­tion­ship.

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