Brexit hard border deal for Ireland will have ‘full legal effect’, says Harris

Fianna Fáil’s Stephen Donnelly claims recent developments are a cause for concern

Minister for Health Simon Harris said there was no question of the hard border deal being watered down or changed. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Health Simon Harris said there was no question of the hard border deal being watered down or changed. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Government is satisfied “full legal effect” will be given to the avoidance of a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland in the final agreement on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

He said there was no question of it being “in any way watered down, diluted or changed”.

Mr Harris was responding in the Dáil on Thursday to Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly, who asked if recent developments were a cause for concern about a hard border.

Mr Donnelly said in recent days the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier had said a UK decision to leave the single market and customs union would make border checks unavoidable.

Referring to the December Brussels agreement, that that there would be no hard border following the UK’s withdrawal, Mr Donnelly suggested the British government’s had “a much narrower, more minimalist interpretation’’ of what had been signed.

Protection

He said he had put Ireland’s view of this “backstop” agreement directly to three UK ministers and they had refused to accept Ireland’s view as to its comprehensive nature.

Mr Donnelly said the “backstop’’ might be the only protection left against hard border controls on the island and it felt as though it had just been weakened.

Mr Harris said the Government expected to see the December agreement honoured in full by the British government.

He said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had discussed Brexit with British prime minister Theresa May when they met in Belfast last week.

“On that occasion, they both reaffirmed the two governments’ shared commitments to the December agreement on Irish issues,’’ he added.

He said the agreement was not just between Ireland and Britain but between Britain and the EU.

Mr Harris said work on developing the withdrawal agreement, including the relevant and important sections on the Irish issues, was very much ongoing.