The fundamentals have not shifted, but at least now we have a clear plan with which we can work.
That was the overwhelming response of the Irish Government to the release of the British white paper on how it sees its relationship with the European Union post-Brexit.
Basically, as Tánaiste Simon Coveney said, Ireland and Europe have patiently sat and waited for prime minister Theresa May to get her house in order to deliver a workable solution.
All politicians need to focus now on how we move forward and try to understand each other’s position and find what is possible and what is now so we can try to inject some credibility and positivity into this negotiation, he added.
“Clearly there has been a lot of turmoil and difficulty politically in Westminster, but we always believed that it was going to be necessary for a British prime minister to stamp her authority to actually get a clear British negotiating position,” said Mr Coveney.
“She has chosen to do that in the last week.
“We think now that that clear negotiating position is really the first time in about six months that there is clarity coming from the British government in terms of what they’re actually looking for in these negotiations.
Among the key features of the 100-odd-page report are:
- A new free trade area in goods, based on a “common rulebook” for frictionless movements across borders, which will require the UK to commit to ongoing harmonisation with EU rules. This is seen by London as a long-term solution to the Irish border issue;
- Continued UK participation in and financial contributions to European agencies covering areas like chemicals, aviation safety, and medicines;
- A facilitated customs arrangement, removing the need for checks and controls between Britain and the EU and allowing differing UK and EU tariffs on goods from elsewhere in the world to be paid at the border.
With just 99 days left to reach a conclusion, much work remains to be done.
Talks recommence on Monday in Brussels but after a highly bruising week for Mrs May, her white paper does represent a step in the right direction, as far as Ireland is concerned.
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