Brexit customs proposal a big ask, says Mairéad McGuinness

Government insists peace process must not be used as ‘bargaining chip’ in negotiations

The peace process must not be used as a "bargaining chip" in the Brexit negotiations between the European Union and the UK, the Government has warned.

In an official statement released as the UK government this week issues a number of Brexit position papers, the Government said it welcomed Wednesday's publication of a paper on Northern Ireland.

“The emphasis on the priority areas identified by the Government, including the Common Travel Area, the Good Friday Agreement, North/South co-operation and avoiding a hard Border, is welcome,” the statement said. “Protecting the peace process is crucial and it must not become a bargaining chip in the negotiations.”

The statement added that the Government hopes that enough progress can be made in Brexit talks to advance to the next stage of negotiations, which will outline the future EU-UK relationship.


"As these papers are inputs to the negotiation process between the UK and the EU27, the Government will also engage closely with the European Commission, the Barnier Task Force and our EU27 partner member states regarding them."

Fine Gael MEP and vice-president of the European Parliament Mairéad McGuinness has described the UK's Brexit proposal to forge a new customs partnership with the EU as a "big ask".

Reacting to the publication of the UK’s position paper on future customs arrangements, Ms McGuinness said it reflected a view that it would be possible for Britain to enjoy the full benefits of membership while being outside the EU.

“The idea of leaving and coming back on your own terms is quite an ask,” she said.

Fianna Fáil's Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly said the paper was "full of propaganda" and did not advance the UK's position. "Essentially this document is a restating of the Brexiteers' opening position. There is this delusional notion that the UK is going to get better trade deals on its own."

Mr Donnelly said the paper should “focus minds” in Ireland. “This is real. This is going to hurt,” he said.

Sinn Féin's Brexit spokesman David Cullinane described the paper as "delusional, fantasy stuff" and predicted it would be dismissed quickly by the EU.

Meanwhile, director general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce John McGrane said he was cautious about the feasibility of some of the proposals put forward.

“An agreement must be sought that ensures borderless trade can continue on the island in order to protect the economic and social gains that have been won over the past 19 years with the development of the all-island economy,” he said.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times