The EU’s College of Commissioners on February 28 approved a draft text on the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the bloc, proposing a regulatory alignment of Northern Ireland with the European Union while the rest of the United Kingdom withdraws as a result of Brexit.
The draft text clearly states the EU’s position as well as its position on the future of Northern Ireland in the event further negotiations between Brussels and the British government fail.
According to the text, Northern Ireland should remain in the EU customs union, keeping a consistent tax resume, while Britain will not hold regulatory authority over goods produced in the area. Belfast will be covered by the EU Customs Code and will be aligned with EU rules on products, plantations and health forecasts, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said, noting that certain peculiarities exist in in Northern Ireland that do not pertain to the rest of the United Kingdom.
Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar believed the new draft text will be rejected by “hard Brexiters”, adding that a radical fallback option that would see Northern Ireland essentially stay in the customs union while the rest of the UK exits is “the last resort”. For his part, Varadkar said he was looking for is a trade agreement between Britain and the EU.
Barnier, however, believes the EU heads of state did not disagree with the above during last week’s discussion in the European Council.
“No UK Prime Minister could ever agree” to the EU’s draft terms, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said, responding to Barnier’s words, after the draft text was published, suggesting that she plans to reject certain parts of what Barnier said was the product of their negotiations. “We’ve made it crystal clear to the EU that the UK is committed to protecting and enhancing our precious union,” said May.
Barnier told journalists after the College of Commissioners meeting that the text published by the EU side is a pragmatic approach to a complex problem. By drafting the text, the EU is looking to find constructive solutions, including scuttling the fallback option if negotiations progress.