Negotiations on the future of possible border controls between the UK and the Republic of Ireland collapsed today, after the Democratic Unionist Party made clear they would accept no compromise that could leave Northern Ireland regulatory closer to the EU than rest of the UK.
The Irish negotiating team has said they would like Brexit discussions to move onto the next stage, but they need assurances from the British government that there would be no hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, no matter the final Brexit deal.
Theresa May has been consistent that the UK does not want a hard border with Ireland, but if the UK leaves the EU Single Market and Customs Union will be the result unless the EU and UK can agree on a special deal.
After a morning in which MEPs had been making positive sounds about a possible agreement over the question of an Irish border, DUP leader Arlene Foster made a public statement that her party would not accept any deal that would see a “divergence of regulations” that separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK after Brexit.
May’s government would collapse without DUP support, and Foster’s public statement forced the prime minister to walk back from the privately agreed text assuring the EU that Northern Ireland would not diverge from EU regulations for the foreseeable future.
After hearing the rumours that Northern Ireland could have a special deal with the EU, leaders from Scotland, Wales, and London, all pushed to remain within the Single Market and Customs Union.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said:
“The clear solution to this government chaos is a deal that protects both the Good Friday Agreement and our national economy after Brexit – UK remaining in the single market and customs union.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added:
“Today’s developments show very clearly that if one part of UK can retain regulatory alignment with the EU and effectively stay in the single market, there is no good practical reason why others cannot do the same.”