Irish PM: Solid Progress on Post-Brexit Border Needed By June

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Photo by Liam Lysaght from Flickr

On Thursday, Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister said that negotiators from the European Union and the United Kingdom must make further progress regarding the issue of the Irish border by this coming June if discussions are to move forward on a final agreement on the withdrawal.

Northern Ireland will be the only land frontier of the United Kingdom with the European Union following its withdrawal from the bloc. Both sides say that they are committed to maintaining the border with Ireland open. However, looking for a practical solution has proved to be elusive so far.

The United Kingdom says that a free-trade deal between the EU and the UK that is set to be finalised by 2021 can do just that. Dublin insists that the Brexit treaty must lock in a “backstop” arrangement just in case the future pact does not work, something that London signed up for achieving in March.

Varadkar informed the reporters in the Belgian city of Leuven: “We want to see further progress in June, and if we’re not making further progress, then we have to ask serious questions as to whether there can be a withdrawal agreement at all.

“I’m optimistic that further progress can be achieved before the June (European) Council … So far, the British government hasn’t managed to write down an alternative that we believe works, but there is time between now and June for that to be done. There’s still a lot of work to do.”

On Wednesday, David Davis, the British Brexit Secretary said that he regarded June as an “artificial deadline” prior to the crunch period in October when the negotiators from the European say that the withdrawal agreement must be prepared to allow some time for ratification.

On Thursday, lawmakers from Britain stepped up the pressure on Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, over her strategy on Brexit. The criticised her refusal to seek for a customs union with the European Union and Varadkar again called on London to shift tack if it wants to be able to secure a close relationship with the European Union after Brexit.

He stated: “The biggest barrier to that at the moment is the very, very hard red lines that the UK government has set down. If there is a softening of those red lines, there is also the ability of the European Union to meet the United Kingdom halfway and soften its positions as well.”