Brexit Soft Boarder Agreed

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has given a speech to outlining the solution found to retain a soft boarder on the island of Ireland. This was one of three major issues preventing the UK and the EU continuing to phase 2 of the negotiations on the exit of the UK from the EU, AKA Brexit. Citizen Rights and a financial settlement are the 2 other issues. The negotiators can now move on to work out the detail of what has been agreed and to talk about transition phase, free trade and the new relationship between the EU and the UK.

The Taoiseach outlined what had been achieved:-

1. The Good Friday Agreement in all its parts is protected.

2. Everyone born in Northern Ireland will continue to have the right to Irish and therefore EU citizenship. So, a child born in Belfast or Derry today will have the right to study in Paris, buy property in Spain, work in Berlin or any other part of the European Union. All they have to do is exercise the right to Irish and therefore EU citizenship.

3. The Common Travel Area will continue allowing us to travel freely between Britain and Ireland.

4. British and Irish citizens will continue to have the freedom to live, work, study, access housing, healthcare, pensions and welfare in each other’s countries as though we are citizens of both.

5. The United Kingdom has committed to avoiding a hard border as an 'over-arching requirement' with which 'any future arrangements must be compatible'. There will be no physical infrastructure or related checks or control.

Three options have been set out as how this can be achieved. Our preferred option is a deep and comprehensive agreement between the EU and the UK in its entirety which will allow us to trade as we do now. However, that might not be possible. So there is a backstop arrangement in which Northern Ireland and perhaps all of the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with rules of the Internal Market and Customs Union which are relevant to the avoidance of a border, north-south co-operation and the all-island economy.

6. People and businesses in Northern Ireland are being given the additional assurance that the United Kingdom government will ensure that Northern Ireland business will continue to have unfettered access to the whole of UK and that no new barriers will develop between Northern Ireland and Great Britain unless the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree to it. Northern Ireland and Great Britain will not drift apart.

7. PEACE and INTERREG funding which is so valuable to our border communities will continue until 2021 and we will favourably examine continuing it beyond that.

8. The United Kingdom has committed to ensuring that in Northern Ireland there is no diminution of human rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity set out in European Law.

9. And finally, there will continue to be a distinct strand on Ireland in phase two of these negotiations.

Sinn Fein's President, Gerry Adams T.D., gave a cautious welcome to the deal saying "The insistence by the British that Britain and the North must leave the customs union and the single market presents a real and live danger which cannot be understated. This also contradicts the British Prime Ministers claim that there will not be a hard economic border. Today’s communiqué also throws no light on the future role of the European Court of Justice and in particular the right of EU citizens in that part of the island to be able to access the EU institutions. These are all genuine concerns particularly in light of the British Prime Minister’s assertion today that the North will no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice."

Micheal Martin, Leader of Fianna Fail, also express a cautious welcome to the deal saying "We welcome the news this morning that agreement has been reached on the important Phase 1 of the Brexit talks, especially the fact that language has been agreed on there being no hard border on the island of Ireland going forward. However, the text published this morning repeats a number of times that nothing has been agreed until everything has been agreed. The Phase 2 process is where the most difficult issues of trade and future relationships will be tackled and it is important that as a country we maintain a close and coherent focus on what it is we want from this process."

The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, also welcome the announcement but is clear that she feels certain areas need to be resolved, she welcome the assurances she was looking for saying "We do however welcome the assurance given by the Prime Minister and Brexit Secretary in Parliament that any alignment will be done on a UK wide basis, ensuring that there would be no barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and our most important market in the rest of the UK."