Published: Sun, July 22, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

May's Brexit plans for Northern Ireland: What you need to know

May's Brexit plans for Northern Ireland: What you need to know

Speaking at the city's Waterfront Hall, she said any such deal would go against the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland 20 years ago after decades of conflict.

The promise will be welcomed by leading Brexiteers after the Government said in May that there were no plans for a legally enforceable link between the bill and a future trading relationship.

Even more pointedly, governments across the European Union and particularly in Dublin, will have searched in vain for a hint that Mrs May is ready to stand up to her internal Conservative opponents and produce a sustainable Brexit strategy.

Mr Barnier said that the Withdrawal Agreement could not be concluded without a legally binding backstop setting out the fallback arrangements if a wider solution for the Irish border could not be found.

He said Ireland is not interested in division or separation and there are a number of elements in the UK's White Paper on Brexit that could form the basis of negotiations "that might provide a framework" for how these matters might be dealt with in the future.

He also said that workarounds with respect to the Northern Irish border could not result in any "additional bureaucracy" - an apparently brand new requirement it will be virtually impossible to fulfill.

May rejected the idea, arguing it would create a border down the Irish Sea.

Theresa May has set out a pragmatic case for Northern Ireland remaining within the Union and has said that she will always argue for a constitutional structure which enables four nations to pool and share their resources.


May in December agreed in principle to a binding "backstop" to ensure a soft border irrespective of future EU-UK ties, but later baulked at an EU proposal to achieve this by treating Northern Ireland as a separate customs area to the rest of the United Kingdom.

"The notion of a hard border is nearly inconceivable, a seamless border must continue".

The Prime Minister attempted to deny these criticisms at a press conference in Northern Ireland on Friday, but just hours later Barnier - perhaps unintentionally - completely undermined her, telling reporters that one the "very positive" aspects of Chequers is that guarantees "the role to be played the ECJ as sole arbiter".

Mr Donohoe also said he believes that Mrs May's commitment to an open border is genuine and honest.

Barnier again warned, however, that without an agreement on the Irish border there will be no Brexit divorce agreement and no transition period.

The EU's other 27 member states will have a chance to examine and respond to the UK's Brexit white paper when its General Council of ministers meets in Brussels this morning.

Ahead of the visit, he posted on Twitter that "if the UK Govt (government) don't support current European Union wording on Backstop in draft Withdrawal Agreement, then obligation is on them to propose a viable and legally operable alternative wording that delivers same result: no border infrastructure". "We need to make it clear that the two are linked".

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