Brexit: North will not be treated differently to rest of UK, says DUP
SDLP says Belfast Agreement structures could ensure North is not cut off from EU after Brexit
Northern Ireland will not be treated differently from the rest of the UK in Brexit negotiations, the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson has said.
The MP for Lagan Valley was responding to an internal EU paper which suggests that the avoidance of a hard Border on the island of Ireland effectively requires Northern Ireland to remain in the single market and the customs union.
The working paper says that in order to avoid a hard Border, it is essential that there be no divergence of rules on either side of the Border. That scenario would effectively require Northern Ireland to remain in the single market and the customs union.
Mr Donaldson said Northern Ireland being treated differently to the rest of the UK “is just not feasible”. There are solutions and a hard Border will not be necessary, he told RTÉ’s News at One.
“Of course there will have to be some checks, but they don’t have to stop traffic at the Border to carry out checks on every truck.”
Mr Donaldson said he thinks the UK should get preferred trader status and that he is not pessimistic about an agreement being reached.
“It is important that we get an agreement. Most of all it is important for Ireland. Irish farmers don’t want to see barriers to trade with the UK.”
He said he hopes there can be agreement on customs and trade.
“Let’s be clear, Northern Ireland will not be treated differently from the rest of the UK. We’re not going to agree to a new Border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.”
He said he was happy to wager that Theresa May would still be prime minister beyond Christmas and that the Government will continue to have a majority in the House of Commons.
British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn could not force Northern Ireland into some sort of agreement on Brexit if he came to power, Mr Donaldson added, saying such a move would create a constitutional crisis.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that North-South structures could ensure Northern Ireland is not cut off from the EU after Brexit.
Mr Eastwood said “flexible and imaginative” solutions to the Border question were contained within the 1998 Belfast Agreement which enshrined co-operation with the Republic.
The bodies established under that deal could be used to safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in Europe. Mr Eastwood said: “Post-Brexit, the North-South structures could come into their own — ensuring that we are not cut off from the broader island economy and the European Union.”
Those institutions were established to satisfy nationalist demands for an Irish dimension to the Belfast Agreement which largely ended violence in 1998.
They include the North South Ministerial Council and bodies dealing with issues like tourism and waterways. Powersharing at Stormont collapsed earlier this year and there are no ministers in Belfast.
Mr Eastwood said an internal European negotiation paper effectively mapped out the need for special EU status for Northern Ireland after Brexit. “This is a welcome and timely clarification that the trading relationship across the island of Ireland must remain unchanged in order to avoid any hardening of the border in Ireland. “That can only happen if Northern Ireland retains full access to the single market and stays in the customs union. “Never has a statement of the obvious been so welcome.” –Additional reporting PA