According to a report by Irish state television broadcaster RTE, the British government proposal to adopt a UK-wide solution the Irish border problem has been flatly dismissed by an EU official yesterday (24 May). The recent Backstop arrangement which was agreed in December last year must apply to Northern Ireland only and will include complete alignment of EU rules on goods, standards and regulations for Northern Ireland in order to avoid a hard border, and not just alignment on customs according to the EU official.

The senior EU official is reported to have said that “what we need to have is the recognition that the backstop has to be Northern Ireland specific.

“We have to do away with the fantasy that there is an all-UK solution to that.”

He also stated that any proposal to make the backstop time limited would also be dismissed.

“Let me make it very clear. The regulatory alignment option is not available on an all-UK basis because it would amount to selective participation in the single market, and we would need to understand the rules on the backstop for the customs dimension, which cannot be time limited.”

The Irish border issue continues to be the thorn in the British governments’ side.

The official went on to say; “We need to have a clearer understanding, or we need to have, ideally, agreement on the customs arrangement in the backstop which is to be looked at separately from the future EU-UK customs relationship”.

“We need to have recognition that regulatory alignment for Northern Ireland is the key to avoiding a border. And we need to have made progress on the drafting of the protocol.”

Progress is expected by June and as time runs out on the British government to come with a viable solution, the prospect of a roll back to accepting membership of the customs union and single market becomes the only real alternative, the real question is, how does Theresa may complete the task without her government imploding?

A Joint Report was agreed between the EU and UK last December and in it, is a protocol which indicated that the territory of Northern Ireland should remain part of the EU’s customs territory, and the full alignment of the rules of the single market for goods applying in Northern Ireland.

Even though this section of the report was dismissed by May and the DUP, an alternative solution is now becoming more implausible.

The EU official recognised the urgency of a resolution but also indicated that no extreme compromise is likley.

“We have always said we are open to alternative drafting from the UK. We only have one benchmark and that is, does the suggestion address the issue of the border while respecting the integrity of the single market and customs union?

“That is our benchmark. We will look at any drafting. So far we haven’t got any. Progress at this stage seems illusive, and substantive progress even more so.”

The quest of the impossible for Britain continues…

You can view the RTE report here.

Ken Sweeney
Committed to idea of supporting aspiring writers and journalists. Serial podcaster.

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