Special Brexit deal likely as ‘nobody’ wants to do border checks
Special Brexit deal likely as ‘nobody’ wants to do border checks


Sinn Fein has urged the Dublin government to block talks on future ties between Britain and the European Union as not enough progress has been made on agreeing the status of the border through Ireland once Britain exits the EU.

Despite some reports of progress, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Thursday negotiations with Britain this week failed to make the kind of advance needed to open talks on their future relationship as planned in October.

The EU believes that there will have to be a “standalone” deal on the border, paving the way for a special status for the North of Ireland after Brexit.

When the third round of Brexit talks ended on Wednesday, officials made it clear that the British proposal for a customs waiver on the border was a non-starter.

The EU said the plan required it to suspend the application of its laws, namely checks on goods from British jurisdiction coming into the 26 Counties, which will remain a member state.

It is feared the current British stance would force the EU and the Dublin government to set up customs checkpoints along the border as the first step towards the remilitarisation of the border area.

The recent British position paper on the matter has been widely viewed as an attempt to make Ireland a “hostage” in the talks. EU officials said they were not prepared to allow the border to be a proxy for Britain’s negotiations on its future trading relationship with the EU.

The Dublin government also believes the best solution the North of Ireland is for it to remain inside the customs union and the single market, whether Britain remains or not.

“The Irish government should insist that the negotiations are not ready to move to the next stage,” Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said in a statement on Thursday. “The fact that no definitive progress has been made in these talks is evidence that the British Brexit plans are unworkable and unrealistic.”

He described a number of British government papers on negotiating priorities released in recent weeks as “confused and contradictory.”

Sinn Fein has also said that the aspiration of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government for a “frictionless” border between the two jurisdictions on the island is incompatible with its Brexit intentions. It has also complained that Britain’s plan to leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice could damage the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Adams added: “The position of the British government on leaving the (EU) customs union, single market, EU Court of Justice, and refusing to deal with the long term future of the European Convention of Human Rights directly contradicts their commitments on Ireland.”

However, there was reported agreement to allow passport-free travel for EU citizens across the border and between Britain and Ireland to continue, although the rights of non-EU citizens remains uncertain.

The 26 County Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he remains very confident there will be no need for new passport controls along the border. He was responding to concerns raised by former president Mary McAleese, who questioned how some form of ID checking could be avoided.

Following EU accusations that British proposals for no checks amounted to “magical thinking”, or fantasy, Mrs McAleese warned that “sooner or later pressure will come on to make it an ID card phenomenon”.

The Taoiseach, who like Mrs McAleese was interviewed on the border issue by Irish state television, said he was convinced passport controls would not be needed.

He said he believed that the London government would seek to control immigration by imposing limits on rights to work and claim benefits, and not by physical checks on borders.

“In life and politics nothing is 100 per cent certain, but I am very confident that there won’t be passport controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland,” he said.

“We want to stay in the Common Travel Area, which allows people to travel freely between north and south and Britain and Ireland.

“The British government wants that too and so do our European partners.

“So while there will be a big debate and difficult negotiations around issues such as trade, around issues such as the financial settlement, the fact that Dublin, Belfast, London and Brussels want to continue passport-free travel between Northern Ireland and Ireland gives me absolute assurance that that won’t be the case.”

He added: “The reason why I can be confident that there won’t be passport controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland is the fact that nobody is looking for them.”

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