Source: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie
NO DEAL HAS been reached on the question of the Irish border during Brexit negotiations today.
A deal to avoid a hard border was expected to be announced this afternoon. The UK was expected to concede that there would be no “regulatory divergence” on the island of Ireland in relation to the single market and customs union.
However, the DUP said it wouldn’t accept Northern Ireland having a different deal to the rest of the UK.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he is “surprised and disappointed that the British Government now appears not to be in a position to conclude what was agreed earlier”.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has been in Brussels for scheduled meetings with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and EU president Donald Tusk.
Speaking after the meeting with May, Juncker told reporters, “We had a friendly and constructive meeting today.
Despite our best efforts and significant progress … it was not possible to reach a complete agreement today.
He added, “We will resume negotiations later this week, I’m still confident we can make sufficient progress before the European Council on 15 December.”
Source: Sam Boal
Both May and Tusk echoed that agreement is still possible. In a tweet Tusk said, “I was ready to present draft EU27 guidelines tomorrow for Brexit talks on transition and future but the UK and Commission asked for more time.
It is now getting very tight but agreement at December EUCO [European Council] is still possible.
The British Prime Minister said the negotiations would reconvene before the end of the week: “I am also confident we will reach an agreement”.
There is speculation that a call between May and DUP leader Arlene Foster may have contributed to the delay.
In a statement today Foster said there can’t be any regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom. The economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will not be compromised in any way.
“The Prime Minister has been clear that the UK is leaving the European Union as a whole and the territorial and economic integrity of the United Kingdom will be protected.
“We want to see a sensible Brexit where the Common Travel Area is continued, we meet our financial obligations, have a strictly time limited implementation period and where the contribution of EU migrants to our economy is recognised in a practical manner.
“The Republic of Ireland claim to be guarantors of the Belfast Agreement but they are clearly seeking to unilaterally change the Belfast Agreement without our input or consent.”
The EU had set today as the last deadline for Britain to make sufficient progress on three key Brexit divorce issues – the Irish border, its exit bill and the rights of EU citizens living in Britain – in order to move on to trade talks at a summit next week.
Speaking this evening Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, “We do not want a border in the Irish Sea anymore than we want a border between Newry and Dundalk or Letterkenny and Derry.”
He said that earlier today the Irish negotiating team received confirmation from the British government that “the UK had agreed a text on the border that met our concerns”.
He said he confirmed Ireland’s agreement to that text to both Juncker and Tusk.
I am surprised and disappointed that the British Government now appears not to be in a position to conclude what was agreed earlier today.
“I accept that the Prime Minister has requested more time. I know that she faces many challenges and I acknowledge that she is negotiating in good faith.
But my position and that of the Irish Government is unequivocal. And it’s supported by all of the parties in Dail Eireann, and I believe the majority of people on these islands.
“Ireland wants to proceed to phase two, it’s very much in our interests to do so. However we cannot agree to do this unless we have firm guarantees that there will not be a hard border in Ireland under any circumstances.”
He said it wasn’t easy to come to the agreement they came to today and that he doesn’t see “any reason to change the text”.
The Taoiseach also said that Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed to him that “Ireland’s position is Europe’s position” on the issue.
Varadkar’s statement on the Brexit negotiations was due to take place at 2.30pm this afternoon but was postponed until this evening when no deal was reached.
With reporting by Christina Finn