Practicalities of permanently avoiding a hard border still unclear

06 July 2018

Labour Party Leader, Brendan Howlin, reacting to the Chequers statement from the UK Government, has said that while the practicalities are still unclear, finally having a position paper from the UK is a step forward. Now the Irish Government must seek a special meeting of EU leaders as part of the 20 September summit to finally resolve the backstop issue for the Irish border.

Deputy Howlin said:

“While it is welcome that Theresa May’s warring Cabinet has finally agreed a unified position on what they are seeking in Brexit negotiations, it leaves us with very little time to resolve the fundamental inconsistencies in what they want, and what it may be possible to agree with the remaining 27 EU governments.

“We do not know the practicalities and detail of how a hard border will be avoided under the proposals agreed tonight, and won’t know either until the White Paper is published.

“A facilitated customs arrangement has never been implemented anywhere in the world before, and it is unclear how it would work in practice, and if the EU can possibly agree to what the UK is seeking.

“With the stated intention of the UK to resolve the backstop issue I believe it is essential that the Irish Government seek to have this finally agreed at a special meeting of EU leaders on the 20th September. The Austrian presidency has proposed a migration summit for this date, and we must seize this opportunity.

“Given the complexity of the trade aspects of the British proposal, there is a real possibility of a further processes of negotiation dragging on for months, without resolution of the Irish border question, which is why it needs to be settled separately and well in advance of the October EU Council deadline.

“In terms of the detail, it is not clear tonight how the free trade area for goods and agri-food products as proposed would work alongside the European single market. While this is obviously the UK’s preferred position it very much represents what would be best for Britain as their opening gambit for negotiations. But it is difficult to see EU agreement to UK access to the single market for goods if the British are not willing to pay into the EU budget to finance the costs of maintaining the single market and the agencies and rules that make it possible.

“If the UK decides in future not to recognise new EU regulations, on food for example, it would lead to regulatory divergence that would inevitably mean a hardening of the border on our island.

“The UK’s proposals as it stands would also sunder the four fundamental freedoms, and the statement tonight again does not recognise that the free movement of people is central to  a functioning single market. If this was to happen other states would also seek it, unravelling the EFTA and the EU.”

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