Dublin threatens Brexit talks over border issue
London — Ireland’s EU commissioner Phil Hogan says Dublin will "continue to play tough" over its threat to veto talks about trade after Brexit unless Britain provided guarantees over the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Hogan told the Observer newspaper on Sunday that Britain, or Northern Ireland at least, should remain in the single market and the customs union to avoid a hard border dividing the island.
"If the UK or Northern Ireland remained in the EU customs union, or better still the single market, there would be no border issue."
British Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain will leave the single market and the customs unions after Brexit.
Dublin wants a written guarantee that there will be no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The EU has said "sufficient progress" needs to be made on the Irish border, along with two other key issues, before EU leaders can approve the opening of trade talks in the new year at a summit on December 14-15.
Dublin and EU officials said the best way to avoid a "hard border", which could include passport and customs controls, was to keep regulations the same north and south. But the Northern Irish party that is propping up May’s government will oppose any deal that leads to the province operating under different regulations to the rest of the UK.
"We will not support any arrangements that create barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK or any suggestion that Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, will have to mirror European regulations," the Democratic Union’s leader, Arlene Foster, said on Saturday.
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Conservatives in Scotland, said on Sunday that the Irish border was "one of the really difficult bits" of the negotiations.
She said that Britain’s unique future position as the only country that had left the EU meant it did not need an "off-the-shelf" solution. However, she did not specify how the issue should be resolved.
"I think that it is really important that we get the transitional deal nailed down; that’s not for government, that’s for businesses so they know what they are doing next year and they are able to plan."