On Thursday, Donald Tusk, the European Council President, said that Brexit talks are at risk of being stalled if the United Kingdom does not offer a realistic solution for the future of the Irish border following last week’s rejection of London of a European Union fallback proposal.
The government of Britain has said that it does not want a customs union with the European Union, without which the EU says that it would need to regulate the trade of Northern Ireland to avoid a return of customs checks.
However, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, backed by her hardline pro-British Northern Irish parliamentary supporters, stated that no prime minister could agree to such terms as the terms would “threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK.”
During a joint news conference with Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, in Dublin, Tusk said: “When I was in London last week, I heard very critical comments by Prime Minister May, and others, about the way the Irish border issue was presented in the draft Withdrawal Agreement.
“While we must respect this position, we also expect the UK to propose a specific and realistic solution to avoid a hard border. As long as the UK doesn’t present such a solution, it is very difficult to imagine substantive progress in Brexit negotiations.
“If in London someone assumes that the negotiations will deal with other issues first, before moving to the Irish issue, my response would be: ‘Ireland first’.”
Northern Ireland will have the only land border of the United Kingdom with the European after Brexit, and Varadkar has also called on PM May to spell out her proposals.
On Wednesday, he said that Dublin must have certainty that once a better option is not made available, the proposal of Brussels to establish a “common regulatory area” between the island of Ireland and the other 26 states of the European Union will apply.
Addressing the comments that were made by Philip Hammond, the British finance minister, last Wednesday that gave arguments for a bespoke deal or an ambitious free trade agreement that is covering financial services, Tusk said that the European Union could not be able to offer the same in services trade as it would do in goods.
He said that unlike the trade of goods, services are about making sure that common supervision, common enforcement, and common rules and that is why agreements on free trade do not have detailed rules for financial services.
Tusk stated: “We should all be clear that also when it comes to financial services, life will be different after Brexit.”