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EU 'still waiting' on UK to give specific solutions to Irish border issue

EU negotiator Michel Barnier said border checks would be “unavoidable” if the UK left the single market and the customs union.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

EU NEGOTIATOR MICHEL Barnier has said he is still waiting for the UK to articulate their specific solutions to the Irish border after Brexit.

Another round of Brexit negotiations concluded today, with Barnier stating that it was “important to tell the truth” that border checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland would be “unavoidable” if the UK left the single market and the customs union.

Britain and the EU reached an interim deal in December on three key separation issues — the financial settlement, the Irish border and the rights of EU citizens after Brexit.

But translating that into a proper legal agreement is proving especially difficult on the Northern Irish issue.

“The UK has committed to proposing specific solutions to the unique issue of Ireland. We are waiting for such solutions,” said Barnier at today’s press conference.

Barnier added that the eventual deal would contain an emergency option which states that if Britain fails to find a special solution for Northern Ireland, the UK would remain in “full alignment” with the EU on trade issues to ease the border impact.

Northern Irish unionists and pro-Brexiters have already angrily rejected this.

The Irish government has been calling on the British to outline their solutions for some time now.

Last year, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlined the Irish position by stating that Ireland would play no role in creating a border between the Republic and the North, adding that Britain had decided to leave the EU.

“If they want to put forward smart solutions, technological solutions for borders of the future and all of that that’s up to them,” he said in July.

Since the agreement in December, pressure has been placed on the UK to outline their specific solutions, in detail.

Barnier said today that time is now “very short”.

“The time has come to make choices, and we await with great interest the choices,” he said.

Junior Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee has urged Britain to outline their plans for the border, stating that it is getting more difficult for agreement to be reached.

Britain and the EU aim to start talks on a future relationship in April but time is running out. Barnier says a draft deal is needed by November so it can be ratified in time for Brexit.

- (c) AFP 2018 with reporting by Christina Finn

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