EU leaders back deal that would see North rejoin EU in event of Irish unity

The EU 27 leaders unanimously backed a tough Brexit strategy today.

download Angela Merkel and Theresa May Cheriss May / SIPA USA/PA Images and Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/PA Images Cheriss May / SIPA USA/PA Images and Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/PA Images / SIPA USA/PA Images and Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/PA Images

Updated 5.15pm

EUROPEAN UNION LEADERS have unanimously adopted their Brexit strategy at a special summit in Brussels today, in a show of unity ahead of two years of tough talks with Britain.

The 27 leaders quickly agreed on the negotiating guidelines as they met without Britain for the first time since Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the divorce process a month ago.

They say talks on a future trade deal with Britain can only start once London agrees divorce terms on citizens’ rights, its exit bill and Northern Ireland.

The leaders have backed an agreement that would see Northern Ireland automatically rejoin the EU if it votes to reunite with the Republic.

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that he was “very pleased” with the outcome of the talks, saying that they reflected their priorities: to protect the Peace Process, avoid a hard border, and maintain the Common Travel Area.

On the issues of specific concern to Ireland, the outcome is a huge endorsement of the government’s approach and a clear recognition of the unique and specific challenges we face.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan welcomed the outcome, saying Ireland’s concerns have been “reflected prominently” in the EU’s position for the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

I warmly welcome the very strong acknowledgement in the guidelines adopted today by the European Council of the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland.
The explicit recognition by the Council of the importance of preserving the achievements, benefits and commitments of the Good Friday Agreement, in all its parts, reflects the consistent support of the European Union for the peace process.

“Guidelines adopted unanimously. EU27 firm and fair political mandate for the Brexit talks is ready,” EU President Donald Tusk said on Twitter, shortly after the summit began.

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Leaders adopted the guidelines, unchanged, within one minute, an EU source said.

Tusk earlier urged the bloc to keep a united front, saying it will also help Britain if they can reach a deal.

“We need to remain united as the EU 27. It is only then that we will be able to conclude the negotiations, which means that our unity is also in the UK’s interest,” he said.

‘Cost for Britain’

French President Francois Hollande said as he arrived that “the aim of the summit is unity”, adding: “There will inevitably be a price and a cost for Britain.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU wants “good relations” with Britain but added that “we also want to defend, at 27, our common interests – so far we have done extremely well”.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the bloc had a “clear line” on the talks.

But this unity is not directed against Britain, I think that it is also in its interest.

The EU 27 have considerably toughened the guidelines since Tusk first unveiled them a month ago, with Brussels also drawing up a detailed list of citizens’ rights.

Tusk said this issue – the fate of three million EU citizens living in Britain and one million Britons on the continent – “must be number-one priority for EU and the UK”.

Officials hope for agreement on this by the end of the year.


The leaders will also discuss the relocation of EU medical and banking agencies that are currently based in London.

EU guidelines say that only when “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce issues can these trade talks begin, with sources saying they hope to do that by the end of the year.

EU leaders were discussing how to define this progress after approving the guidelines at the summit, officials said.

Tusk’s call for a united front comes hot on the heels of a war of words between Merkel and May over the negotiations.

Merkel said Britain should not have “illusions” about getting favourable treatment, but May hit back by accusing the EU 27 of planning to “line up to oppose us”.

© AFP 2017 

Read: EU President’s letter: Britain must settle ‘people, money and Ireland’ first

Read: The potential for a united Ireland is on the front page of the Financial Times

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