Hurry up and prepare for a hard Brexit — EU Council

Geraldine Edwards
June 24, 2018

I do not doubt the sincerity of the European Union negotiating team and their commitment to Ireland in these negotiations but serious issues still remain unresolved with President Junker himself acknowledging that "there is not much time left to reach agreement".

"The European Council expresses its concern that no substantial progress has yet been achieved on agreeing a backstop solution for Ireland/Northern Ireland", the draft conclusions, seen by Reuters, said.

Juncker said he was "strongly against any temptation" to try to isolate Ireland and not to conclude a withdrawal deal.

The EU says Britain's decision to leave the single market and the customs union means border checks will be necessary unless Northern Ireland retains the same customs and regulations as the EU.

"Sunday's meeting isn't a mini-summit but an informal working meeting", Juncker said in a press conference with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

The European Commission president addressed the Oireachtas this afternoon, and received applause when he said the Irish border is also Europe's border.

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Coming a week ahead of a key European Council meeting of leaders in Brussels, the visit to Dublin of Mr Juncker and the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is a clear demonstration of the EU's solidarity with Ireland's position.

After his talks with the prime minister, allies of Mr Davis immediately claimed victory by insisting "much more detail" would be provided on the time-limited nature of the government's backstop proposal.

A polling report by Lord Ashcroft earlier this month said: "If it were not possible both to leave the European Union and to keep England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales together in the United Kingdom, 63 percent of Leave voters in Great Britain (including 73 percent of Conservatives) said they would choose to leave the EU".

This week the European Union warned that more work was needed on how to deal with the 300-mile frontier post-Brexit.

"This is an important opportunity to assess the state of play in the Brexit negotiations".

But there will be no withdrawal agreement without a fully operation backstop.

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"The aim should be a "Norway plus" model on the basis that the red lines set out by the Prime Minister in her Lancaster House speech in January 2017 are not consistent with the national interest".

The Irish government issued a statement last night saying Mr Varadkar's meetings with the Scottish first minister and Welsh first minister will focus on the implications of Brexit.

"We had asked for and looked for significant progress in June".

The EU hopes a final version of the withdrawal agreement, together with a political declaration on the future relationship between London and the EU, can be approved by October so that it can be ratified by the Brexit deadline of the end of March 2019.

Responding to Mr Juncker's remarks, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he has secured a place in history amid the Brexit "riddle".

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