N Ireland to stay in customs union

N Ireland to stay in customs union

The UK and EU, with the support of Ireland, have agreed a deal on the Northern Irish border, which was the last obstacle to complete phase one of the Brexit negotiations. 

The European Commission is prepared to move to the next phase of discussions about the transition period and Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s last-minute deal with the EU ensures there will be no “hard border” with Ireland; and EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the rest of the EU, will see their rights protected.

The “divorce bill” will amount to between £35 billion and £40 billion, the BBC reported.

The European Commission president called it a “breakthrough” and he was confident EU leaders would approve it.

There is currently no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The solution is to keep Northern Irish regulations in line with the EU’s and give it a special status, to keep it in the customs union and single market.

The deal agreed after objections from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is propping up May in the Commons, has edged Britain towards a soft Brexit, leaders in Dublin are arguing.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he was delighted with the deal because not only had it delivered an invisible border with Northern Ireland but the DUP clause had delivered a new promise of barrier-free trade within Ireland and the UK in the event of no deal.

Varadkar said May would have “no closer friend” in the next stage of negotiations.

“I’ll be very frank. Brexit, by its nature, has strained relations between Ireland and the UK. Of course it has. How could it not?” the new prime minister said. “Our role now is to get through that. I actually think because of this agreement that we have today, because we have the guarantees and the assurances that we sought, Britain will have no closer friend than Ireland.”

He said it was in Ireland’s interest to help May get a deep and ambitious deal because Dublin wanted to maintain the £50 billion-a-year trade with the UK, its biggest export partner.

Anti-Brexit protesters in Manchester in October. Picture credit: Eurasia Times

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