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Friday, February 23, 2018

EU could rescue Six Counties from hard Brexit

Posted by Jim on February 10, 2018

 

With no sign of a British government solution to the issue of the Irish
border, the European Union is reportedly preparing a draft of the
British withdrawal treaty with the North of Ireland effectively having
status within the EU.

The move comes after Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator warned that
border checks will otherwise be unavoidable under British plans to
leave the EU single market and customs union.

Mr Barnier also warned that agreement on a transition period to smooth
Britain’s exit from the EU was “not a given” — indicating the
possibility remained of a sudden and chaotic introduction of border
controls across Ireland.

Michel Barnier made the remarks after London expressed a new
determination to leave the customs union and the single European
market. The comments also came after unionist hardliner Ian Paisley jnr
of the DUP called on the British parliament to adopt a “no surrender
attitude”.

Unionists remain focused on a potential blame game with the EU over the
introduction of border checks, with the DUP insisting it is only the
the EU which is “brandishing the threat of customs controls”.

Last month, South Down Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard warned over the
possibility of civil disobedience and local anger and frustration in
border areas “at even the thought of a customs post going up”.

British officials negotiating in Brussels were told by their
counterparts on Tuesday that while full alignment between North and
South would be the only option included in the withdrawal treaty, there
could be a “sunset clause” included in the legally binding text, which
is expected to be published in about two weeks. That clause would allow
the text on the border to become obsolete if a better alternative for
“regulatory alignment” across the border is found.

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy again called for a broad alliance across
Ireland to support special status for the North, which he said is now a
“live project”.

“It has been evident for anyone who has examined this matter that the
only way in which a hardening of the Irish border can be avoided is for
all of Ireland to remain part of the single market and customs union,”
he said.

“Anything less risks the imposition of border controls and the
undermining of the Good Friday Agreement – it is therefore now time for
all Irish political parties and the Irish government to unite in
pursuing that goal.”

An official report for the British government found that the North’s
economy faces a potential 12% hit as a result of Brexit. But the East
Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson has repeated the unionist and Tory hard line
that Brexit must come at any cost and said the “gloves are off”.

“The blackmailing burghers from Brussels and the cheap political
opportunists in Dublin must meet a tough UK government response,” he
wrote. “In these negotiations, if the gloves are off, it is time we
went into the fray with a no surrender attitude.”

Sinn Fein’s outgoing leader Gerry Adams expressed concern at the
developing standoff and urged more clarity to what he described as the
“fudge” which was negotiated in December.

“The Irish government must urgently seek clarification from the EU
negotiating team on the current state of play with the British,” he
said.

“Specifically, we need to know if the legal language of the draft
agreement will support the North remaining within the single market and
customs union; if the Irish government will support that position; and
will it refuse to accept, as was agreed in December, that there will be
no hard border?

“The Irish government must also demand that the British government
spell out what measures it plans to put in place to ensure that full
regulatory alignment is put in place.”

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