EU assures Dublin that Brexit talks will not move on without ‘more progress’ on Irish border
Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker have personally assured the Republic of Ireland that Brexit talks will not move into the next phase until there is “more progress” on the border issue.
The Irish government has said it would be prepared to veto any attempt to move on to trade talks next month unless Theresa May gives written guarantees there will be no return to a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Simon Coveney the Irish foreign minister, said today that EU leaders had assured him Dublin had the support of the other 26 member states over its hardline stance.
The thorny issue of the Irish border is the latest sticking point in the Brexit negotiations and Theresa May is under pressure to come up with a solution before December's crunch European Council summit.
The Prime Minister has said she supports a "frictionless" Irish border, although she is equally committed to pulling the UK out of the customs union and single market.
Mr Coveney told Irish state broadcaster RTE this morning he had received a personal message from Mr Barnier, Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker.
“They have repeated the message that Ireland’s problems are the EU’s problem, so Ireland is not going to be isolated and forced to use a veto," he said.
“We are part of an EU negotiating team that is very clear on this issue - there needs to be more progress on the Irish issues between now and the 14th of December and if that doesn’t happen we won’t be moving on to the phase two discussions, which is where everybody wants to be, including Ireland.
“We can’t allow a situation to develop where we move into phase two of discussions on Brexit in the hope that somehow the border is going to be resolved without having any credible understanding as to how that’s going to be done.”
He added: “If you basically move from one customs union into another customs union when you move from Ireland into Northern Ireland then there has to be customs checks, there is no way of avoiding that.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We remain firmly committed to avoiding any physical infrastructure and we've had clear discussions about that with the EU. These discussions will continue in the run-up to the December council. But the Secretary of State was also clear that we would only be able to conclude them finally in the context of the future relationship."
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