A professor of European law explains why the Brexit border is not just an Irish problemby Kenneth Armstrong / December 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
Avoiding a so-called ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland is an ambition that seems to be shared by all sides in the Brexit negotiations. But as the United Kingdom prepares to leave not just the EU but also its Single Market and Customs Union, the means of doing so has not been readily apparent.
With the border issue forming a key part of the first phase of Article 50 negotiations, making sufficient progress on this issue is key to whether the UK can move to the next phase of talks about the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU.
The EU, and the Irish Government, take the view that Brexit is not of their making and it is for the UK Government to put forward proposals for how the land border on the island of Ireland will be managed post-Brexit.
As the UK Prime Minister travelled to Brussels on 4 December to meet with European Council President Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, it seemed as though a breakthrough agreement might be possible that could allow the European Council to give the green light to the next phase of negotiations.
That was until the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) issued a statement that it would “not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom.” This was a reaction to the apparent agreement between the UK, Ireland and the EU that ‘regulatory alignment’ would be maintained on the island of Ireland.
The aim of alignment would be to avoid having to introduce border checks to ensure that goods entering the EU Single Market via Ireland conformed to EU regulatory requirements.
The DUP, however, was anxious that a border in the Irish Sea could emerge, with goods on the island of Ireland having to comply with EU rules, while different rules could apply in the rest of the UK.
With the DUP signalling concerns, it became clear that no deal could be signed off.
A defining moment for Brexit negotiations
This debate about regulatory alignment and regulatory divergence is a defining moment for the Brexit negotiations beyond the technical question of whether talks can proceed…