Government had ‘big part’ in EC paper on avoiding hard Border

Varadkar: ‘Other 27 member states behind us in seeking to preserve Common Travel Area’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe speaking outside  Government Buildings in Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe speaking outside Government Buildings in Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

The Government had a “big hand and a big part” in the drafting of the European Commission paper which saw the EU formally adopt the Irish view that it is the UK’s responsibility to avoid a hard Border, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The paper, published on Thursday by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said it is the responsibility of the UK government to spell out solutions on how to avoid a hard Border on the island of Ireland.

It follows statements from Mr Varadkar in recent months that, since the UK voted to leave the EU, it is up to the UK government to come forward with detailed proposals on the Border.

The EU has also said a political solution must be reached for Ireland before technical discussions can start on the future of the Irish Border post-Brexit.

“The Government had a big hand and a big part in writing that paper, and that paper very much showed that the EU27, the other 27, member states are very much behind us when it comes to our national interest in seeking to preserve the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland and the effective common citizenship that exists between the two countries, protecting the gains from the peace process and also avoiding any barriers to trade on this island,” Mr Varadkar said.

Document: Guiding principles for dialogue on Ireland/Northern Ireland

Political contacts

“Negotiations will continue and, of course, political contacts will continue across the European Union, and we will make a decision in October if we can move on to the next phase of talks which would deal with those issues.”

The Taoiseach was asked what he believes to be the “political solution” required by the EU in order to allow negotiations move towards other issues such as trade.

He repeated his position that there should be an EU-UK customs arrangement, and a similar arrangement on the European single market.

“A political solution, to me, is what I have said before. It is Britain taking a decision to stay in a customs partnership or stay in something similar, or not very different from the single European market, for a transitional period, and that is something I have said consistently and that is still my view.”

Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly, the Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesman, welcomed the paper from the European Commission and said its contents are “encouraging”.

‘A welcome development’

“In particular the emphasis on the need for the UK negotiation team to produce far more detail is a welcome development, albeit an unsurprising one,” Mr Donnelly said.

“The UK negotiation team needs to be much more upfront about its proposals for dealing with the challenges facing Northern Ireland. The emphasis needs to be all-encompassing, and the negotiations cannot just solely centre on the customs challenge.”

He also claimed the European Commission “raised the prospect of a unique deal for Northern Ireland”.

“It’s also important that the Government ensures that Ireland is ready domestically to deal with the challenges that are set to arise post-Brexit. The progress of the negotiations to date has been positive for Ireland - and it’s important that the momentum is maintained in the months ahead.”