Irish PM: bespoke deal possible to avoid hard border in Northern Ireland

Posted On: 
11th November 2017

Northern Ireland could avoid a hard border with the republic by continuing to apply the rules of the EU’s single market and customs union, according to the Irish prime minister.

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar delivers his keynote speech at the Fine Gael party conference
PA Images

Leo Varadkar said yesterday there was the possibility of a bespoke agreement that would not require either Northern Ireland or the UK to remain as formal members of the customs union.

Speaking at the the British-Irish Council summit in Jersey, he said: "When it comes to the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, what we have all agreed to is that there shouldn't be a hard border, there should be no physical infrastructure along that border and that there should be no return to the borders of the past.

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“It is our view, and has been our view for a very long time, that the only way that can be achieved is if the United Kingdom as a whole, or Northern Ireland, continues to apply the rules of the customs union and the single market.

"That doesn't mean that they have to be members of it, but it would mean continuing to apply the rules of the single market and the customs union.

Mr Varadkar was asked to comment on a leaked EU paper which argued that the preserve the Good Friday Agreement peace deal, Northern Ireland would have to de facto remain within the EU customs union.

The Conservatives and DUP are opposed to this idea, which would effectively position a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, said the last round of talks with the EU had featured "frank discussions" about the Irish border. 

He was speaking in Brussels yesterday after a meeting with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier, after which Mr Barnier gave the UK two weeks to clarify its position on the Brexit ‘divorce bill’.