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9th Dec 2023

Ireland may seek aid, as border issue stalls Brexit deal

  • Theresa May will call EU leaders this week, including Angela Merkel, to get further assurances on the Irish border backstop (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Dublin will seek hundreds of millions of euros in emergency aid from Brussels if the UK crashes out of the EU in March without a deal, the Irish Independent reported on Thursday (3 January).

Irish officials have told the EU Commission that Ireland will be lobbying for aid to cope with the fallout to Irish trade, particularly in the beef, dairy and fishing sectors, the paper said.

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If a no-deal Brexit happens, Ireland will be making the case for a major aid injection, agriculture minister Michael Creed told the Irish Independent.

"You're looking at hundreds of millions here. Between the beef industry and the fishing industry we're talking mega-money," he said.

Last year former WTO director general and EU trade commissioner, Pascal Lamy warned that Ireland may need emergency aid in the event of a no deal.

The Irish border issue remains at the heart of the stalled Brexit deal that British prime minister Theresa May will struggle this month to get ratified in the House of Commons.

That draft Brexit agreement would set out a transition period until the end of 2020 with a one-time possibility of extending it.

It also plans to keep the UK aligned with the EU's customs union if no deal is reached on future relations by the end of the transition period.

However, hardline Brexiteers reject this draft agreement, saying this so-called backstop solution could keep the UK tied to the EU for decades - something EU leaders have ruled out.

May plans a vote on the deal in the UK parliament in the second week of January, with Brexit only 12 weeks away.

She is expected to speak to EU leaders this week, including Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council president Donald Tusk, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday (2 January).

May is seeking assurances that the so-called backstop, aimed at avoiding a hard Irish border, will be time-limited.

May has already tried to get some kind of guarantee that keeping the UK aligned with the EU customs union would be time-limited, but EU leaders ruled that out arguing the backstop is an insurance policy to keeping the border open, and cannot be time-limited.

However, at a summit last month EU leaders did issue a 'political statement' pledging that the backstop would be strictly temporary, and they would work for a deal on the future relations swiftly.

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt nevertheless told an audience in Singapore on Wednesday that May will find a way to get her Brexit deal approved by the British parliament.

"When Theresa May comes back with those reassurances that she has been seeking from the EU that the deal that is on the table is not going to lead to us being permanently trapped in the customs union ... she will find a way to get this deal through parliament," Hunt said.

On the possibility of a second referendum on the deal, Hunt claimed it would be damaging to democracy.

Border troubles

If no agreement is reached with the EU on the UK withdrawal, the EU and Ireland will have to come up with ideas on how to secure the border on the island of Ireland, which would become the EU's new external frontier.

The UK and the EU pledged to avoid a hard border to maintain peace on the island, but without a withdrawal agreement, Ireland would need to secure that the EU's internal market is intact and the Irish border does not become a backdoor into the EU market without control and regulation.

EU officials have so far refused to speculate how Ireland would be able to secure the border without a deal, but insisted that the political responsibility would lie with the UK if a hard border on the island needs to be established.

Preparations are underway in Ireland too for a possible no-deal Brexit, with hundreds of plant and animal health inspectors for Dublin Port and airport, as well as Rosslare Port, being hired.

Minister Creed said there would however be no checks on farm produce along the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The UK's former Brexit minister David Davis said in the meantime that May should delay the vote on her Brexit deal, he argued in an opinion essay published on Wednesday.

"The more we prepare to leave the EU without a deal, the more likely a good deal becomes," Davis said in an opinion piece in the Telegraph newspaper, arguing that the EU is worried about losing the UK's contribution to the EU budget.

EU leaders have said repeatedly that they are not willing to renegotiate the Brexit deal reached on a technical level last November.

No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas

EU leaders said they can do no more than reassure the UK they do not want to trap it over Ireland, but May might need more than that to get the Brexit deal through parliament.

EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

British PM asked for a legally binding guarantee on the backstop and for it to end no matter what in 2021, but did not reveal a strategy on how to sell the Brexit deal to her parliament.

Battered May seeks Brexit 'assurances' from EU

Having just survived a leadership challenge 24 hours ago in London, Theresa May is back in Brussels for the EU summit in a hope of getting 'guarantees' from the EU on the Irish backstop. But could they be enough?

EU rules out Brexit renegotiation, again

EU officials have warned they will not reopen the UK withdrawal text no matter what happens on Britain's political scene. The EU summit is expected to give a statement on backstop, but no legal assurances.

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