EU Brexit negotiators ‘admit Irish border plan is flawed’

Posted On: 
24th April 2018

European Union negotiators have reportedly admitted that their plan to force common regulations between Northern Ireland and the Republic in order to stop a hard border is flawed.

A confidential diplomatic note seen by The Times reveals the EU’s own concerns about its Northern Ireland border plan
Credit: 
PA

Brussels figures are said to have found that the controversial “backstop” plan would not prevent a hard border and could undermine the single market.

The revelation comes as Theresa May faces renewed pressure from her own Cabinet to ensure Britain is not forced into the customs union and months after she threw out a potential border down the Irish Sea.

Downing Street warns Tory rebels: We are leaving the customs union

Ministers prepare to confront Theresa May as prospect of customs union defeat looms

May warned of no confidence vote if she backs down on customs union

The Prime Minister argued in February that "no British Prime Minister could ever agree" to a solution in which the province faced different post-Brexit conditions to the rest of the UK.

The Times reports that a confidential diplomatic note, seen by the paper, reveals the backstop plan only covers customs checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

Such a move may mean Northern Ireland could undermine the EU and become a hub for businesses wanting to bypass Brussels rules, with no border checks to stop them exporting goods and services to mainland Europe.

They add that single market trade involves goods such as car engines that are bound up with service contracts.

“A solution for the Irish border does not solve problems related to necessary alignment with the whole EU acquis [body of single market law],” the note said.

“Many goods have a considerable services component and a level playing field is not covered by alignment with relevant EU rules as foreseen in the backstop.”

The note adds: “A solution for Ireland should not become, via the backdoor, one for cross-border trade between the whole UK and the whole EU.”

The paper says some EU governments fear Britain will accept UK-wide alignment with the “backstop” as a “blueprint for the rest of the future relationship”.

“The Ireland solution won’t work for the rest of a future deal because that would allow Britain into the single market without accepting all the rules, including free movement as well as customs union,” a diplomat said.

The revelation comes as David Davis made the trip to the Irish border yesterday, where he tweeted that the UK was “determined” to have a solution on keeping an open border by October.

The sentiment could spark unease from the EU side however, which has insisted the issue must be resolved by the next EU Council summit in June.