Britain has days to come up with a “concrete” solution on ensuring there is no hard border with the North or Ireland will block Brexit talks moving to the next phase.
Ireland was effectively handed a veto by European Council president Donald Tusk yesterday ahead of the cut off point next week for London to satisfy concerns about how to avoid a hard border.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar secured a valuable assurance from the council president after a one-hour meeting in government buildings in Dublin yesterday.
Mr Tusk noted that he had given British prime minister Theresa May a deadline of Monday to make a “final offer” on the border before leaders decide whether there is “sufficient progress” on a divorce settlement to merit opening talks on the future relationship.
He insisted there could be no division between the other 26 EU members and Ireland: “The EU is fully behind you and your request that there should be no hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit,” he said. “The Irish request is the EU’s request.”
He added: “The UK started Brexit, and now it is their responsibility to propose a credible commitment to do what is necessary to avoid a hard border.”
Crucially, he declared that if Britain’s offer is unacceptable for Ireland, it will also be unacceptable for the EU.
“I realise that for some British politicians this may be hard to understand.”
The Cabinet will now meet on Monday and discuss the talks with Mr Tusk as well as ongoing updates and talks over the weekend, as all sides push for a deal.
That meeting will be ahead of the crucial meeting between Ms May and European Council president Jean-Claude Juncker on the Monday afternoon. This is the deadline the EU have given Ms May to come with a solution on the North, among the three areas that progress must be agreed on before all sides move to phase two of the Brexit talks.
Meanwhile, the “car crash” of Brexit is the “most scary economic prospect of our lifetime” but people — including Ireland’s political leadership — still do not realise just how serious it it, the founder of Irish regional airline CityJet has said.
Pat Byrne, who was speaking at a conference in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork, said: “It almost seems that the Brexit car crash must be allowed to happen before the people of the UK see the folly of it.”
His comments at the inaugural Harmonia Corporate Advisors conference were echoed by University College Cork economics lecturer Declan Jordan, who agreed with Mr Byrne’s characterisation of Brexit as a car crash. “There is no appetite in the UK for a second referendum so that scenario is unlikely. I agree we may have to have that car crash to see how bad Brexit really is,” Mr Jordan said.
He said the most dominant strategy for Ireland and Irish business was to expect the worst outcome.
Going behind a WTO tariff wall would be the result of a “no deal” scenario, he said. Anything less than a hard Brexit at this point would be a bonus for Ireland, he said.
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