On Saturday, Simon Coveney, the Foreign Minister of Ireland, was quoted as saying that the United Kingdom must submit written proposals on how it plans to keep a frictionless border on the island of Ireland after Brexit in the next two weeks or face an uncertain summer of talks.
The border between Northern Ireland, which is ruled by Britain, and the rest of Ireland will be the only land frontier of the United Kingdom with the European Union after it withdraws from the bloc. While both sides say that they are dedicated to maintaining the border open, looking for a reasonable solution is still proving to be elusive.
Dublin and the European Union insist that the withdrawal treaty of the United Kingdom must lock in a backstop arrangement that guarantees that Northern Ireland will abide by the regulations of the EU in case a trade pact in made in the future does not remove the necessity for border controls. London has already signed up to this, however, it disagrees with the means of the EU of achieving it.
Coveney said in the Irish Times newspaper: “In the next two weeks, we need to see written proposals. It needs to happen two weeks from the summit.” He was referring to a summit of EU leaders this June that is supposed to mark notable progress regarding the issue.
“If there is no progress on the backstop, we are in for an uncertain summer. At this point, we need written proposals on the Irish backstop consistent with what was agreed. We await written proposals from the British side.”
Following the proposal of the EU, if all other efforts to avoid a hard border should fail, Northern Ireland must form a “common regulatory area” with the EU, in effect, it will keep the province of Britain in a customs union with the bloc.
The United Kingdom has rejected this as a threat to the constitutional integrity of Britain. On Friday, an official from the government said that it was considering a proposal giving Northern Ireland a joint European Union and UK status so it can freely trade with both.
However the official said that the idea may not be presented to the EU as the UK is still debating its own preferred strategy on Brexit. The idea was dismissed by officials in Brussels, Dublin, and by the pro-Brexit Northern Irish party that supports the minority government of the UK.
It was reported by the Irish Times that Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Coveney, and some other senior ministers including Paschal Donohoe, the Finance Minister, have repeatedly informed their British counterparts that concrete proposals must be presented soon.