Brexit: Varadkar and May to work on plan for frictionless Irish border
Leaders of Ireland and UK seek deal that does not need Northern Ireland to be in single market
Theresa May and Leo Varadkar are to work together to come up with a new plan on how to achieve a frictionless Irish border after Brexit that does not involve the EU demanding Northern Ireland stays in the customs union and single market.
But speaking to reporters after bilateral talks in Belfast, the taoiseach admitted that achieving this was the “tricky bit” in Brexit talks.
“The two governments are very much of the view that the agreement that was made back in December stands,” Varadkar said.
He was speaking days after Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, said it “was important to tell the truth” and that the UK’s stated intent to leave the customs union and single market meant border checks would be “unavoidable”.
Brussels and London sealed a deal on the Irish border in December with three options: an overall agreement that would allow frictionless borders between the UK and all its frontiers with the EU, a bespoke arrangement for Ireland, and in the event of a no-deal scenario or hard Brexit, a guarantee of “full alignment” north and south of the border, which would effectively mean Northern Ireland remaining in the customs union and single market.
Barnier confirmed the wording for the third option was being drafted for the legally binding withdrawal agreement that the UK must reach in order to move to talks about a transition period or the future relationship.
Varadkar said: “We both prefer option A as the best option by which we can avoid any new barriers [on the] border in Ireland, and that is through a comprehensive customs and trade agreement involving Britain and Ireland.