Leo Varadkar – the final treaty will have to be ratified by all EU parliaments – that's going to be a challenge. My job as Taoiseach is to retain the status quo as exists (between Ireland and Britain).
From left: Helen McEntee, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney
“Today is a very significant day for Ireland and the EU. After long & intensive negotiations we have reached a satisfactory conclusion on the Irish issues including the border…
…We have achieved all we set out to achieve in Phase 1. This is not the end but it is the end of the beginning. The Good Friday Agreement is fully protected & the Common Travel Area will continue. The UK is committed to avoiding a hard border.”
Britain’s Prime Minister and Tory leader Theresa May was questioned by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn about the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
They had this exchange:
Jeremy Corbyn: “The Prime Minister was unable to support her Brexit secretary when he tried to explain that a deal was supposed to be done in October but still hasn’t been done in December. The leader of the DUP [Arlene Foster] told Irish television she only got sight of the deal on Monday morning, five weeks after she first asked for it, two months after the original deadline for the first phase of talks and after Monday’s shambles. Is the Prime Minister now able to end the confusion and clearly outline what the Government’s position is now with regard to the Irish border?”
Theresa May: “I’m very happy to outline the position that I’ve taken on the Irish border with Northern Ireland. It’s exactly the same position that I took in the Lancaster House speech, that I took in the Florence speech, that we have taken consistently in the negotiations which is that we will ensure that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”
“We will do that while we respect the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom and while we respect the internal market and protect the internal market of the United Kingdom.
“And to those Labour members who shout ‘how?’, that’s the whole point of the second phase of the negotiations when we, because we will deliver, we aim to deliver this as part of our overall trade deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union and we can only talk about that when we get into phase two. We have a plan, he [Corbyn] has none.”
May: “The House requested, as I understand it, 58 sectoral impact assessments. There were no 58 sectoral impact assessments. There was sectoral analysis. Over 800 pages of sectoral analysis has been published and made available to the select committee and arrangements have been made available for members of this House to see it.
“We are very clear that we will not give a running commentary on negotiations. But what we will do, what we will do, is work for what this country wants. We will ensure we will leave the European Union in March 2019. We will leave the internal market, we will leave the customs union at the same time and we will ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland when we do it.”
Corbyn: “Mr Speaker, this really is a shambles. All they’ve done, all they’ve done is offer a heavily redacted, abbreviated version that has not been widely shared. And the Brexit secretary said in September, Mr Speaker, that €50billion divorce payment was complete nonsense. The Foreign Secretary rejected any payment and said the EU could go whistle.
“So can the Prime Minister put before the House a fully itemised account that could be independently audited by the Office of Budget Responsibility and the National Audit Office on any proposed payment?”
May: “Because we haven’t actually, we’re at the point of progressing on to the next stage, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So the final settlement won’t be agreed until we’ve actually got the whole of the deal agreed.
“But I have to say to the right honourable gentlemen, he asked me questions earlier about hard borders. You know, half the Labour Party wants stay in the single market, half of Labour Party wants to leave the single market, the only hard border is right down the middle of the Labour Party.”
Corbyn: “Mr Speaker, eighteen months since the referendum, no answers to the questions. Today they haven’t yet concluded phase one. No answers to the questions and the DUP appear to be ruling the roost and telling her what to do. Mr Speaker, whether it’s Brexit, the National Health Service, social care, our rip-off railways, rising child poverty, growing pensioner poverty, or universal credit, this government, this government is unable to solve important issues facing this country. In fact, it’s making them worse. The economy is slowing, more people are in poverty, Brexit negotiations in a shambles. This government is clearly not fit for the future. If they can’t negotiate a good deal, wouldn’t it be better if they just got out of the way.”
Belgian MEP Phillippe Lamberts has told Sky News the UK Government has agreed to a “Special Situation For Ireland”
Belgian MEP @ph_lamberts who has seen draft joint statement tells me live on @skynews Britain & EU have agreed to a “special situation for Ireland” to avoid hard border.
“uk government has come to terms with reality and that’s a good thing”.
According to two well-placed sources, the text that negotiators have been working on intensively over the past five days, spell out that the UK will agree that on either side of the border there would be no divergence on EU single market and customs union rules after Brexit.
This has long been the Irish Government’s preferred solution for avoiding a hard border.
The text says that the UK has agreed that the Good Friday Agreement will be protected.
HEY, IRELAND…! Daily Mail readers would like you to get your treacherous, Guiness-swilling, IRA-sympathising, peasant noses out of their utopian Brexit or they’ll put a minefield on your precious border, ban your products and force you back together with NI.
From top: Yesterday’s London Evening Standard; tweet from spoof Daily Mail account
These attitude mirrors the conveyor belt of myths perpetuated against Scottish independence; subsidy junkies, Arc of Insolvency, Skintland etc etc, and it’s no surprise to see them wheeled out again against Ireland’s entirely legitimate issues about a hard border.
All of this is entirely consistent with the politics of Leave: blame foreigners, blame immigrants, blame Bureaucrats, blame anyone but take responsibility. The political narrative of false-grievance, exceptionalism and stoking resentment will however soon run its course.
The problem for Brexiteers and English xenophobes is that the Irish have been deeply embedded in European politics for a very long time, and whilst goodwill for the British is spent, Ireland has considerable allies who will support her.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar “should know better” than to “play around” with Northern Ireland over Brexit, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party says.
Arlene Foster accused Mr Varadkar of being “reckless” as Brexit talks enter a “critical phase”.
She was speaking after meeting Theresa May at Downing Street.
The Irish government says any hard border with Northern Ireland should be off the table.
…Speaking to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Mrs Foster said: “Some people are taking their moment in the sun, to try and get the maximum in relation to the negotiations – and I understand that but you shouldn’t play about with Northern Ireland particularly at a time when we’re trying to bring about devolved government again.”