In Brussels, Belgian MEP Phillipe Lamberts told Sky News that a Brexit/border deal had been reached. Subsequent reports indicated that final agreement was still elusive. RollingNews.ie, Sky TV photo.
By Anthony Neeson
The Democratic Unionist Party is insisting that Northern Ireland must leave the European Union with the rest of Britain, this amid reports that the British government is willing to accept that there must be no regulatory divergence on the island of Ireland.
British Prime Minister Theresa May was in Brussels Monday for a series of crunch meetings with leading EU officials.
It was expected that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would make a statement in Dublin at 2.30 p.m. (Irish time) on the negotiations, but it was postponed at the last minute.
It has been heavily reported that the British government had conceded to Irish government and EU demands during Brexit negotiations ensuring that there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland.
That would mean that Northern Ireland will be bound by EU customs union and single market rules.
Throughout the day the news coming from Brussels had been indicating that a deal had been reached on Ireland and the other outstanding issues that needed to be agreed before Britain can move on to trade talks with the EU.
Up until mid-afternoon it was believed that a final text had been reached between the EU and Britain regarding the Irish border.
However, during a joint press conference between Theresa May and EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, it was announced that no agreement had been reached but that they were confident that an agreement could be made before the December 15 deadline.
Over the past five days, negotiators have been working on a text that would be acceptable to the Irish government that would ensure that there would be no divergence on EU single market and custom union rules on the island of Ireland after Britain leaves the EU.
On Friday, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, speaking in Dublin, said the EU would not accept a deal that was unacceptable to Ireland.
At lunch-time on Monday he tweeted: “Tell me why I like Mondays! Encouraged after my phone call with Taoiseach @campaignforleo on progress on #Brexit issue of Ireland. Getting closer to sufficient progress at December #EUCO.”
However, speaking at Stormont after news broke that a deal was imminent, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the party – who prop up the Conservative government at Westminster – would “not accept any form of regulatory divergence” between Northern Ireland and Britain.
Unionism’s biggest fear is that the border will shift to the Irish Sea.
“We have been very clear. Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom,” Foster said.
“We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom. The economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will not be compromised in any way.
“Her Majesty’s Government understands the DUP position. The prime minister has told the House of Commons that there will be no border in the Irish Sea.
“The Prime Minister has been clear that the UK is leaving the European Union as a whole and the territorial and economic integrity of the United Kingdom will be protected.”
Last week, DUP MP Sammy Wilson threatened to pull the plug on the DUP confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservatives if his party didn’t like the deal regarding the border.