Theresa May's plan for Irish border 'annihilated' by EU

Erika Holt
April 22, 2018

"We want to use the positive momentum in these negotiations to finally settle outstanding issues such as the solution to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland", Tusk told European Parliament deputies in Strasbourg.

There are three ways this could happen: either the United Kingdom actually retains membership of the single market and customs union (which May has always ruled out), some kind of technological solutions are found to address the specific problems in Ireland, or that Northern Ireland remains part of the single market while the rest of the United Kingdom leaves.

Britain wants to see a new "streamlined customs partnership" with "regulatory equivalence" on both sides of the border, as well as an option for future "divergence", the newspaper reported, but the European Union has rejected this out of hand.

The development has put further pressure on the Prime Minister's plan to leave the customs union, which is also meeting resistance in both houses of Parliament.

The Commission's proposal would effectively cut Northern Ireland off from mainland Britain and May has said no British prime minister could accept that.

In February, however, the European Union published a version which only included the third "backstop" option, which effectively draws a customs border down the Irish sea - something May said would be "unacceptable" to any British PM.

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The UK hopes to avoid this outcome either by agreeing a very close economic partnership with the European Union, which it believes would make physical checks on the Irish border unnecessary, or the use of technology to keep goods flowing freely as they do now.

On Wednesday, European Council president Donald Tusk warned that there will be "no withdrawal agreement and no transition" without a solution on Ireland. "We're confident we can continue".

But the customs union vote was also only the beginning of what will likely be a war of attrition on all aspects of Brexit between the Lords, where May does not have an overall majority, and the Commons, where the government's majority only exists because of the smaller DUP party of Northern Ireland.

"All of us are anxious about our future rights", said Sarah Parkes from the British in Europe group, urging the Dutch government to grant citizenship to Brits who have lived long-term in the country.

Lord Macpherson, the former top official at the Treasury, said the EU's position was "predictable" because of the backstop solution in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Speaking at the Policy Exchange think tank in London, Sir Ivan said that the economic solution was not regarded as "a runner" on the other side of the Channel, because of Mrs May's insistence on leaving the single market and customs union.

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