Monday

21st May 2018

UK ideas on Ireland 'worry' EU negotiator

  • Barnier said the EU and UK need to come to a political agreement on Ireland before they move to technical issues in the second phase of talks (Photo: European Commission)

The UK position on Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit "worries" the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, while the bloc on Thursday (7 September) issued its own position paper on the issue.

"What I see in the UK paper on Ireland and Northern Ireland worries me," Michel Barnier told reporters on Thursday.

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"The UK wants the EU to suspend the application of its laws, the customs union and the single market. The UK wants to use Ireland as test case for the future EU-UK customs relations," he said.

"This will not happen," Barnier added.

In its own position paper, the EU does not put forward it own suggestions on the Irish border, saying it is the responsibility of the UK.

"The onus to propose solutions, which overcome the challenges created on the island of Ireland by the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union and its decision to leave the customs union and the internal market, remains on the United Kingdom," the paper said.

The EU stresses that the UK needs to find solutions that preserve the Good Friday peace agreement, avoid a hard border and do not jeopardise the functioning of the single market or the customs union.

The UK already published its proposals last month on how to deal with the new border, but both Ireland and the EU negotiating team remain sceptical about the situation.

"The creativity and flexibility cannot be at the expense of the customs union and the single market," he said, referring to earlier comments from UK's top negotiator, David Davis, on the need for more EU flexibility.

On Monday, Ireland's foreign minister said in Brussels that his government also aims preserve an invisible border, but also wants to avoid becoming a backdoor to the EU's single market.

Barnier reiterated that the UK and the EU need to find a joint political position on the Good Friday agreement and the common travel area - which makes it possible for citizens on both sides of the border to travel without passport checks - before negotiations can move onto the next phase.

Dublin, in the meantime, welcomed the EU's paper on Ireland. "The UK's aspirations need to be backed by substantive commitments and workable solutions," the Irish government's statement added.

Bill delays

Barnier once again warned the UK that it needs to respect previous financial commitments to the EU.

He said that otherwise the UK risks losing trust.

"I've been very disappointed by the UK position as expressed last week, it seems to be backtracking on the initial commitments," the French politician said, reiterating London needs to respect financial commitments that go beyond the Brexit date.

"You can't have 27 pay for what was decided by 28, it is simple as that," he said.

"There is a problem of confidence here. […] It is not a matter of punishment, but to have confidence you have to balance the books in a legally sound fashion," Barnier said.

Agreeing on a financial settlement proves to be the biggest hurdle for the talks to move onto the second phase of negotiations - on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

Guest list

The EU has also published its position on procurement, data protection, customs issues, intellectual property, and geographical indicators.

According to the EU's paper, procurement processes launched before Brexit in March 2019 should still to be governed by EU public procurement law.

The UK should also not discriminate against EU companies, which are in the process of carrying out state-funded infrastructure projects that have began before the Brexit cut-off day.

On data protection, the EU says union law should continue to apply to personal data processed in the UK before the withdrawal day.

In regard to customs, goods in transit on Brexit day would still be subject to EU law.

On geographical indicators, the EU wants the UK to continue to protect special labels - such as the Parma ham, or the Italian buffalo mozzarella or the French Soumaintrain cheese - to avoid British copies coming to the market.

There are over a thousand products protected within the EU.

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