Published 17:35 January 22, 2019
Updated 19:47 January 22, 2019
The European Commission has acknowledged that a no-deal Brexit will lead to the return of “a hard border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland after the European Commission’s chief spokesperson, Margaritis Schinas, did not deny that this could be the consequence of a no-deal Brexit.
Schinas responded to reporters’ questions saying, “If you like to push me and speculate on what might happen in regards to a no-deal scenario on Ireland, I think it is pretty obvious,” he said. “You will have a hard border. Our commitment and what we have been doing for years with our tools and programmes, we will have to inevitably take this fact into account.”
Reiterating the Commission’s position that Brussels remains committed to the now-defeated Withdrawal Agreement that was hammered out with British Prime Minister Theresa May over the last several months, but was voted down by the UK’s House of Commons in a crushing electoral debacle, Schinas reiterated, that Brussels is “not for plan B, we are for plan A – the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration as a package”.
The EU’s preparedness in planning a document on a hard border in the event of a no-deal scenario, Schinas said the Commission’s contingency work is intensifying after Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said the EU has come closer to the possibility of a no-deal exit following the House of Commons vote.
The Commission’s deputy secretary is starting a tour of capitals to make sure that the EU Executive can assist, advise, and coordinate national contingency plans with those set-out by Brussels in order to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.
The UK and Irish governments have both pledged to avoid a hard border, but since the House of Commons defeat, May has said that the EU “made it clear there will be no flexibility on border checks in a no deal,” adding that “the Irish government will be expected to apply EU (border) checks in full”.
May later told the British MPs in the House of Commons that she will go back to EU leaders in a bid to secure changes to the Irish “backstop” – the controversial insurance policy designed to prevent a hard border if the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal.