Sinn Fein has cast doubt on claims that a newly agreed British cabinet positon on Brexit could prevent a hardening of the border and a diminution of the rights of the citizens in the north of Ireland.
A press release issued by Downing Street following a meeting of the British cabinet on Friday was scant on details of the so-called ‘Third Way’ being championed by British PM Theresa May.
It is styled as a Brexit deal which would give Britain the best of being both inside and outside the European Union. It includes a new free trade area for Britain and the EU under a “common rulebook” that will match EU standards on foods and goods.
There were protests by some Brexit hardliners that the deal would still tie Britain to EU rules.
“An egg that is very softly boiled isn’t boiled at all,” said arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg. “A very soft Brexit means that we haven’t left, we are simply a rule-taker. That is not something that this country voted for, it is not what the prime minister promised.”
Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane said that after two years, Theresa May had “finally convinced the British cabinet to accept the British government’s plan”.
He said May still needs to deal with the issues that Brexit has thrown up with regard to the island of Ireland.
“Theresa May’s plan will leave the North in some kind of bespoke customs partnership while removing it from the single market,” he said.
“There is no such thing as partial membership of the single market and a frictionless bespoke border. Such a set-up is a trade agreement - and those agreements are predicated on hard borders. They rely on borders in order to exist.”
He said there was also the issue of the European Courts of Justice and Human Rights.
“Theresa May talks of honouring the letter and spirit of the Belfast Agreement. Yet the Belfast Agreement is not a customs agreement but one that relates to identity, citizenship, social and legal rights and the protection of all of these through recourse to the European Courts.
“It cannot be protected through the British government acting as a tax collector for the EU - as envisioned through the untested proposal of the Facilitated Custom Arrangement.
“The fact remains that in order to avoid a hardening of the border and to protect the rights of Irish and EU citizens in the north, the island of Ireland must remain in the customs union and single market and remain part of the EU human rights framework.
“Theresa May has to explain in detail how her proposals will achieve this. We await the publication of the British government’s White Paper and the answering of these questions.”