EU to make UK responsible for avoiding a hard Border

European Commission to publish its long-awaited Brexit paper on Ireland

A Union Jack and an EU flag fly outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. File photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

A Union Jack and an EU flag fly outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. File photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg


The European Commission will place the responsibility for avoiding a hard Border squarely on the shoulders of the UK when it publishes a long-awaited paper on Ireland today.

The European Commission’s views in the paper are expected to closely mirror the views of the Irish Government, which have hardened recently as patience with the British government over Brexit wears thin.

It is understood that the document – part of the Brexit negotiation process – will reject recent British suggestions for avoiding a hard Border after the UK leaves the EU.

The main thrust of the commission remains its insistence that it is up to the UK, because it is pulling out of the EU, to set out the specifics of how to mitigate the effects in Ireland of its decision.

Document: Guiding principles for dialogue on Ireland/Northern Ireland

“It’s about getting the UK to accept responsibility for its decisions,” was how one EU source put it.

The four-page document, the first time the commission’s Brexit taskforce has committed to paper its position on Ireland, is understood to have been drawn up with a heavy input from Dublin.

“It closely reflects what the Taoiseach and the Minister [for Foreign Affairs] have been saying recently,” said an Irish Government source, “and puts responsibility back on the UK to come up with better ideas on how a hard Border will be avoided.”

It will be published today along with four other papers, when the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will hold a press conference.

Specific solutions

The Ireland paper, described as “guiding principles” rather than a “position paper”, does not propose specific solutions to the challenges posed by Brexit on the island, insisting that much work is to still be done on clarifying and scoping the range of issues to be addressed before technical discussions can begin. The Northern Ireland discussions, unlike the other Brexit talks strands, are to remain a “political dialogue”.

Commission sources suggest that it is only in recent days that the British negotiators have begun to be seized with the complexity and the number of issues to do with Ireland, and they expect a further British paper in the next few days with a “full mapping” of the issues.

They also bridle at what they see as attempts by British negotiators to try and blame looming challenges in the Brexit talks on EU inflexibility.