Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Theresa May at a recent meeting in Brussels. May is today presenting the draft deal to her cabinet ministers. RollingNews.ie photo.
By Ray O’Hanlon
EU and UK negotiators have agreed on a draft Brexit deal that addresses the future of the border in Ireland.
RTÉ News reported Tuesday that there will be one backstop to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The backstop, according to the RTÉ report, will come in the form of a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement, with specific provisions for Northern Ireland, which go deeper on the issue of customs and alignment on the rules of the single market than for the rest of the UK.
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“While the text is regarded as ‘stable’ it is understood there is further shuttling between London and Brussels,” the report stated.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated today that the draft agreement, amounting to 500 pages, would be placed before the Dáil for a debate and vote.
Doing this is not mandatory, but the Irish government is taking the view that a debate and vote is a way of best presenting Ireland’s view.
More crucial at this early juncture was British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ability to win support in her cabinet for the draft agreement while warding off hard line Brexiteers in her Conservative Party.
Ultimately, the deal with have to be approved by both the European Parliament and the British Parliament. As things stand, the UK, with a reluctant Northern Ireland and Scotland in tow, is due to quit the EU on March 29 next year.
According to an Irish Independent report, Mr. Varadkar said if the UK Cabinet agrees to the deal Wednesday afternoon then it will be published by the EU Commission.
Varadkar said he himself was satisfied that Ireland had got the necessary guarantees in the draft deal.
Stated the report: “Mr. Varadkar promised to brief all parties on the draft deal and its implications but he was obliged to await the outcome of the cabinet meeting in London first.
The Taoiseach also gave a direct assurance to the Unionist community in the North that Dublin would respect the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the integrity of the North’s territory.
On Tuesday evening, after news came of the draft deal, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, speaking to reporters outside Leinster House said: “It has been reported widely this evening that the text of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been agreed between British government and European Union negotiators,” she said.
“Sinn Féin has consistently called for an agreement that protects Irish interests, our economy, the Good Friday Agreement and the rights of our citizens.
“Last December, a joint report by UK and EU negotiators was agreed, in which it was stated there would be no hard border in Ireland. The Taoiseach assured us that this was a ‘cast iron’ guarantee.
“The withdrawal agreement must give legal effect to that ‘cast iron’ guarantee.
“While we await the publication of this document, it is a matter of concern that some are presenting the backstop agreement as temporary.
“Brexit is for the long term and what is required is a durable, permanent and legally robust agreement that safeguards Irish interests and ensures there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.”