EU will not discuss Border proposals at Brexit talks

British government’s customs plans ‘are not on the agenda’ for next week’s negotiations

British proposals to ensure an invisible Border after Brexit will not be discussed next week when the latest round of negotiations between the EU and the UK get under way in Brussels.

The British government has recently tabled proposals for avoiding a customs border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, but its suggestions for new customs arrangements, or that most Irish firms be exempted from any tariffs that are introduced, received a cool response in Dublin and Brussels this week,

The Irish Times now understands that the EU negotiating team will not discuss the British proposals when the Brexit talks reconvene in Brussels early next week for the third session of the negotiations.

EU sources say the British proposals on the customs border will not be on the agenda because it forms part of the “future relationship” phase of the Brexit talks, which Brussels says cannot start until sufficient progress is made on the separation agreement.


The UK wants trade issues – which will define many of the questions about the future of the Irish Border – to be discussed when the sides meet, but the EU will not engage on these subjects.


Privately EU officials are underwhelmed by a series of Brexit papers published by the British government in recent weeks, and have warned the Irish Government that the British may seek to use the Border issue to open talks on the future trading relationship between the EU and the UK.

Brussels remains adamant that this phase of the talks cannot begin until further progress is made on the separation issues – the rights of EU citizens in the UK (and UK citizens in the EU), the settlement of the UK’s financial liabilities to the EU and the Irish issues.

However, the Irish issues will not include future customs arrangements on the Border, but will be confined to the future of the Common Travel Area and the status of the Belfast Agreement.

The issue of a customs border on the island will not be discussed, several sources said on Wednesday.

Plenary session

The next round of talks is due to start on Monday or Tuesday of next week in Brussels. After a full plenary session on the first day, the sides will split into working groups to discuss specific issues.

A separate dialogue on Ireland between the two sides, led by the deputy leaders of each delegation – Olly Robbins for the UK and Sabine Weyand for the European Commission – will continue to discuss Irish issues. There is expected to be a good deal of common ground on the non-Border issues.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times