Government believes it can secure Brexit deal on Border
Ministers prepare for an intensification of negotiations on UK’s departure from the EU
The EU flag flies in front of the British parliament. File photograph: Andy Rain/EPA
As preparations for Brexit talks prepare to step up a gear in coming weeks, the Government believes it can secure agreement that the future of the Border should be left to Dublin and London.
Ministers and officials are preparing for an intensification of negotiations following the Westminster’s announcement that it will formally trigger the article 50 process on March 29th.
Formal negotiations between the EU and Britain are likely to begin by the end of May or early June, according to a document published by the Government on Monday.
However, there will be a number of important stages before that, with constant official and political contacts between the European Commission and member states in the coming days and weeks.
The Government says the EU will have an “initial response” ahead of agreeing a framework for the negotiations.
European Council president Donald Tusk has previously indicated he will respond to the British within 48 hours with draft guidelines for how the negotiations will work.
Irish officials have focused on these guidelines, seeking to ensure that they contain strong language relating to the special position of Northern Ireland and the need to maintain an open Border.
Dublin will ultimately seek to persuade EU member states to allow matters relating to the Border to be settled bilaterally between the British and the Irish.
This has been a focus of Irish diplomatic and political efforts since last year, and sources say the response from most EU countries has been receptive.
But despite extensive contacts with Brussels, Irish officials have not seen a complete draft of Mr Tusk’s initial response, The Irish Times understands.
Once article 50 is triggered and the EU’s initial position is set out, preparations for the negotiations will step up in London and Brussels.
Four to six weeks after the formal notification, the leaders of the member states will meet to finalise guidelines for the commission to begin negotiations.
In the weeks following that summit, foreign affairs ministers will agree more detailed negotiating directives covering a variety of subjects and areas.
The negotiations themselves are expected to begin in June.
Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan reiterated the Government’s position that it wants an “invisible Border that doesn’t inhibit the movement of goods, people or services”.
Westminster has also stressed that it wishes to see as “frictionless” a Border as possible.