Liam Fox, the trade secretary, has implied that there can be no decision on what the Irish border will look like after the UK withdraws from the EU until there is a final deal made between the United Kingdom and Europe.
It comes as Ireland pledged to “play tough” on its warnings to veto trade discussion unless it was offered guarantees that there would not be a hard border – something that could only happen if the United Kingdom or Northern Ireland remained in the Single Market or the customs union.
See Also: Ireland is Set to “Play Tough”on Brexit as Irish Border Issue Emerge
Talking to reporters on a trade trip to New Zealand, Fox said that the government did not want a hard border. He added: “But the UK is going to be leaving the customs union and the Single Market.
“We’ve always had exceptions for Ireland, whether its voting rights to residence in the UK, we’ve always accepted a certain asymmetry, and that will have to be a part of whatever agreement we come to with the European Union. But we can’t get a final answer to the Irish question, until we get an idea of the end state.”
Fox said: “And until we get into discussions with the European Union on the end state, that will be very difficult.”
The trade secretary indicated that the pace of the negotiations needed to pick up. He warned: “We have to get there faster than at the present time.”
However, the Irish border has been identified by the chief negotiator of Michel Barnier, the European Union, as one of the crucial areas where the United Kingdom must show progress in order to move on to trade discussion in the next fortnight.