May Goes to Northern Ireland to Argue Brexit Plan Will Avoid Hard Border with EU
The UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May is visiting Northern Ireland on Friday to defend her blueprint for Brexit, and to try to convince the people there that it will help avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state.
The question about the land border between the UK and what is still the rest of the EU, i.e. the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, continues to be at the top of the agenda of the European Union in its talks with London on Brexit.
The recent adoption of May’s Chequers plan for Brexit forced her to reshuffle much of the Cabinet after the resignations of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis.
The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but the EU has insisted that a Brexit deal be agreed upon by October 2018.
May arrived in Northern Ireland on Thursday for a two-day visit, Reuters reports.
She will visit the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for the first time since the Brexit referendum more than 2 years ago.
May’s Brexit White Paper proposes retaining the closest possible commercial links for goods trade between the UK and the EU, including in order to avoid having infrastructure on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The 500-kilometer (300 mile) border has been opened since the 1998 peace agreement which ended the conflict between the pro-British majority of Northern Ireland, and the Irish nationalist minority.
“The economic and constitutional dislocation of a formal ‘third country’ customs border within our own country is something I will never accept and I believe no British Prime Minister could ever accept,” May is to tell a crowd at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on Friday, according to the extracts of the speech provided by her office.
She is going to argue that retaining a regulatory alignment on goods trade with the EU will be sufficient to avoid a hard land border between Britain and the EU.
“[It is] now for the EU to respond. Not simply to fall back onto previous positions which have already been proven unworkable. But to evolve their position in kind,” she will say, according to the text.
There have been warnings that rebuilding the physical infrastructure on the Northern Ireland – Republic of Ireland border after the UK exits the European Union would spur the anger of Irish nationalists in the former.
The British Prime Minister, however, has turned down a proposal by the EU under which Northern Ireland would have remained closely aligned with the EU’s single market and customs union.
“The process of withdrawal will be complex, and it will require hard work, serious work, and detailed work,” May will say in Belfast.
“The Government has done that work. The White Paper is our plan for the future,” she will argue.
On Friday, May is also going to meet with the leadership of Sinn Fein, the largest Irish nationalist party.
The ruling majority of May’s Cabinet in the House of Commons of the British Parliament depends on the 10 MPs from the Northern Irish pro-British Democratic Unionist Party.
(Banner image: Theresa May on Twitter)