UK guarantees on Border ‘reasonable and needed’ – Spanish minister

Irish Government recognition of Catalan independence would be ‘against common sense’

Irish Border checkpoint: Spanish minister Jorge Toledo supports the call by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier for London to propose solutions to avoid a hard Irish Border before a key summit of EU leaders in mid-December. File photograph:   Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Irish Border checkpoint: Spanish minister Jorge Toledo supports the call by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier for London to propose solutions to avoid a hard Irish Border before a key summit of EU leaders in mid-December. File photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

Securing guarantees on what happens to the Irish Border before Brexit talks move to future EU-UK arrangements was “not only reasonable but needed”, Spain’s minister for European affairs has said.

Speaking on a visit to Dublin, Jorge Toledo, the Spanish secretary of state for European affairs, said it was important to reach an agreement with the UK on preserving the current Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain and protecting the Belfast Agreement and the EU’s single market.

He was discussing the EU’s recently leaked paper that suggested Northern Ireland would effectively have to remain in the customs union and single market to avoid a hard border post-Brexit.

“There is nothing in the guidelines that Northern Ireland should or should not stay in the single market, but we must make sure that while preserving the Common Travel Area or the Good Friday Agreement, we don’t destroy the single market in the EU27 – I think we will get there,” he said.

Think-tank address

Mr Toledo, taking questions from The Irish Times after addressing the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) think-tank in Dublin, said it was not necessary for Brexit negotiators to “go into every detail” in first-phase of talks because customs controls will not be addressed until second-phase negotiations.

The Spanish minister supported the call by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier for London to propose solutions to avoid a hard Irish Border before a key summit of EU leaders in mid-December.

“I hope and I expect that there’ll be further efforts by Britain to make that possible, that technology or flexibilities that can be used for that to happen,” said Mr Toledo.

Rejecting Sinn Féin’s demand that the Irish Government recognise an independent Catalonia, the Spanish government minister said such a move would defy the EU’s Lisbon Treaty on respecting a member state’s constitutional structure and territory integrity and would be “against common sense”.

“It would be very, very extraordinary to say and it would be an offence to Spain, ” he said.

Populism dismissed

In his address to the IIEA on the subject of the future of the EU, Mr Toledo described Brexit as “an existential crisis” and dismissed populism as proposing “simplistic answers to very complex questions”.

“I am very confident that this time, contrary to what happened in the ’20s and ’30s, populism may miss the train because they need a real crisis now,” he said.

“Now that people are starting to feel the rain of prosperity again, they will miss the train and we will go back to normality, and normality in Europe means democracy, rule of law, parliamentary democracy.”

Mr Toledo said there needed to be a common EU budget with a common debt instrument that could be called “Eurobonds” that could be used to help countries with asymmetrical crises.

Now that EU economies had emerged from crisis and were growing again, there was an opportunity to “start creating things and to start sending positive messages to our people”, he said.