Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
By Anthony Neeson
The Irish government is becoming increasingly frustrated with their British counterparts as another Brexit deadline has come and gone without the Irish border being addressed.
The 28 countries of the European Union met in Brussels for a two-day summit. However, the summit was dominated with another EU migrant crisis with the British once again producing little detail on their plans for the Irish border.
The 27 leaders expressed concern that “no substantial progress has yet been achieved on agreeing a backstop solution for Ireland/Northern Ireland,” demanding “further clarity” from Theresa May’s government.
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At the end of the summit Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the EU was willing to make concessions on Northern Ireland staying within the customs union, however, he reiterated that such a proposal would not be offered to the UK.
The UK had offered this solution on June 7 to prevent a hard border in Ireland or down the Irish Sea. The UK could not pick and choose what parts of the EU it wanted to retain, he added.
“For an economy the size of the UK, that’s not a realistic proposal,” he said.
“Bear in mind what that would involve. It would involve the UK essentially having the benefit of one of the four freedoms, which is having access to the free market for goods, but not services and not capital… and not free movement of labour.”
“If that principle were to be conceded I’m sure there would be eurosceptic and right wing and populist parties in every second country in Europe who would say, well, we want that same deal.
“That would be the beginning of the end of the single market, and while we really regret the UK has decided to leave the European Union, we’re not going to let them destroy the European Union.”
Speaking about the forthcoming British proposals, which he said Prime Minister May had briefed him on, Mr. Vardkar said: “The optimist in me would love to see the UK coming forward with a White Paper which allows the EU and UK to have a relationship that is so close that would make the whole issue of the Irish border almost irrelevant.
“But I’m not so naïve to think that that’s likely, so that’s why we do need to have a backstop, and that backstop can’t really apply to the UK as a whole because the EU is willing to make concessions, is willing to make a special case for Northern Ireland, willing to give it special treatment because it’s a small place, less than two million people and because of its unique history and geography that special treatment or access to the single market unfortunately can’t be on offer to the UK as a whole.”
Meanwhile, British government officials are remaining tight-lipped ahead of this Friday’s meeting at the Prime Minister’s country retreat at Chequers, where the British government’s new customs options with the EU will be discussed.