Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Irish Minister for Europe Urges May to Give More Ground on Border Issue

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Irish Minister for Europe Urges May to Give More Ground on Border Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Collins Brussels Correspondent

IRELAND'S Minister for Europe today warned that a Brexit deal between the EU and the UK could be endangered unless Theresa May gives more ground on the Irish border issue.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, Helen McEntee said a new UK-EU trade deal, which Mrs May hopes would avoid any need for a hard border, will take "years" to sew up.

She urged Mrs May to accept the EUbacked proposal for a controversial "backstop" plan, effectively to keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and parts of the single market.

"If it comes to October and we don't have an outcome, it will be the EU saying 'we're not happy with this'," Ms McEntee said.

The UK Government hopes to avoid checks on lorries at the Northern Irish/ Irish border by signing a wide-ranging trade deal with the EU. But Ms McEntee was sceptical of the chances of a quick deal, pointing out that all 27 remaining EU states would have to agree.

"There is a short space of time and we know that free trade arrangements took years in other parts," she said.

Mrs May said in December that "no prime minister" could agree to the backstop plan, which would effectively shift the border to the Irish sea and is flatly opposed by the Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 MPs prop up her Government. The Financial Times reported that the PM now favours a "customs partnership" with the EU that would avoid a hard border and prevent different regimes applying in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The idea was one of two options put forward in a Government paper last August. It would see the UK mirroring EU tariffs and customs rules for foreign imports destined for the European market, using a combination of tracking technology and repayments for traders charged the wrong tariff.

The plan was dismissed by the EU at the time as "magical thinking", and the paper itself admits it is an "innovative and untested approach that would take time to develop and implement".

"The possibility of that happening between now and October is probably quite slim, so for us the backstop will have to apply," Ms McEntee said of any new plan for the border. …

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