EU, Ireland tell UK to come up with Brexit border plan | News | DW | 01.12.2017
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EU, Ireland tell UK to come up with Brexit border plan

Ireland's prime minister says Britain must offer a plan for keeping the Irish border open after Brexit. According to a UK parliamentary committee, Brexit would be impossible to reconcile with an open border.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the UK must produce a concrete plan to ensure continued ease of mobility between the independent Republic of Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, one of the Brexit-bound UK's four countries.

"The EU 27 can't declare sufficient progress in the Brexit negotiations without firm and acceptable commitments on the border," Varadkar said after meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk in Dublin on Friday. They spoke ahead of a meeting of EU leaders later this month to decide whether Brexit negotiations have stalled indefinitely or can be allowed to advance.

Set to begin in 2019, Brexit would replace the freely crossed 310-mile (500-kilometer) frontier between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland with a land border separating the European Union from the United Kingdom. British officials have said they want to maintain a "frictionless" flow of people and goods with no border posts, but have yet to put forth a plan for implementing that once the United Kingdom leaves the EU's borderless single market and tariff-free customs union.

If Britain does not provide such details, the European Union would not agree to start discussing future relations and trade. The European Union has imposed a number of punitive measures since a majority voted for Brexit in June 2016.

Irish border protest

Earlier this year, activists set up a mock border to demonstrate the hassles to come

'Exposed and vulnerable'

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland has opposed one possible solution that would permit Northern Ireland to remain the UK's lone member of the EU's customs union following Brexit. And UK Prime Minister Theresa May relies on the DUP as a partner to her ruling Conservatives in her minority government.

Read more: Can Theresa May exploit Germany's woes in Brussels?

The EU will not hear any Brexit offer from the United Kingdom that Ireland does not approve of, Tusk said after Friday's talks with Varadkar. "If the UK offer is unacceptable for Ireland, it will also be unacceptable for the EU," Tusk said. He said the EU stood "fully behind" Ireland's demand to avoid a "hard border."

Any barrier to movement of people or goods could hurt economies on both sides — and threaten Northern Ireland's peace process. Trade has thrived since a 1998 accord abolished checkpoints and customs posts imposed during years of conflict. Thousands of people live on one side and work on the other, or cross daily to shop or socialize.

On Friday, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters that Ireland finds itself "uniquely exposed and vulnerable to the consequences of Brexit."

"We have an all-island economy," Coveney said.  "We cannot allow an unintended consequence of Brexit to be an undermining of that relationship in future," he added.

As in Scotland, some politicians in Northern Ireland have floated the idea of the country's withdrawal from the United Kingdom to avoid the consequences of Brexit.

mkg/cmk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP) 

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