Brexit talks on track: London offers assurances on the Irish border

ANDY RAIN

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes Irish new Taoiseach Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 19 June 2017.

Brexit talks on track: London offers assurances on the Irish border


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Brexit talks are back on track as London offered written guarantees on the Irish border, The Times reported on Thursday.

A proposal on the 500km Irish border has been submitted in writing.

London pleases Dublin and Brussels

Brussels and London have addressed the last hurdle on the Brexit negotiations. British officials have achieved a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations, as sources in Dublin suggest the Irish government is satisfied London is serious.

That means a deal may very well be reached on December 14-15.

The assumption is that the UK is willing to see Northern Ireland remain, if need be, in the Single Market in the Customs Union, deviating from the rest of the UK.

Earlier this week, the EU and London agreed on a formula for the calculation of the so-called “divorce bill” of the UK. That will amount to more than double the original sum proposed by Theresa May. The assumption is that there will be no difficulty in addressing EU citizens rights, meeting all three preconditions set by the EU 27.

And good will from London is returned in kind, as Brussels brace to offer a two-year transition deal. That means London can avoid the threat of major divestment as a number of companies have begun buying office space in other EU member states, especially in the financial industry.

Barnier is likely to recommend that negotiations can move on to trade talks.

The problem is now Belfast

The problem now for Theresa May is the Democratic Unionist Party, without which, the Conservative government loses its parliamentary majority. For the DUP, the idea that Northern Ireland will deviate from the trade regime of the rest of the UK is unacceptable.

The DUP’s leader, Arlene Foster, has made clear the DUP will not accept any deal undermining the “constitutional” position of the region.

Former DUP leader, Mr Robinson, has told the Belfast Telegraph that Dublin is using Brexit to drive constitutional change “… doing significant harm to North/South relations.”

The DUP’s leverage is not limitless, as a collapse of the Conservative government would mean Jeremy Corbyn could lead a Labour government. The popular Labour leader has in the past taken a pro-Republican stance and his election would be a major defeat for the far-right DUP.

But, the DUP can’t be entirely defeated, as the implementation of any agreement would entail a unity government in Belfast. Republicans and Unionists have been unable to form a government since January 2017.

The British government hangs in the balance. The DUP’s Member of Parliament Sammy Wilson told the BBC that his party’s confidence in the Conservative governance will be withdrawn if the border moves effectively to the Irish Sea, separating the North of Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Following successive meetings between Theresa May’s government and the DUP on Thursday, it is unclear whether the government has bridged the gap with the unionists.

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