Newstalk
Newstalk

11.53 25 Mar 2018


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Britain’s Brexit Secretary has said the UK will not agree to the ‘backstop’ border solution proposed by the EU.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, David Davis claimed recent progress in negotiations have made it “incredibly probable, very, very highly probable” that a bespoke solution would be found.

He said he expected the issue to be resolved through a new free-trade arrangement or modern technology.

Last week both sides agreed that a legally binding ‘backstop’ arrangement must be included in the withdrawal agreement, in case Britain leaves the bloc without a deal.

"Common regulatory area"

Arriving at last week’s European Summit, the British Prime Minister Theresa May told European leaders that she remains committed to the deal reached at the end of the first phase of negotiations in December.

The deal includes a ‘back-stop’ arrangement whereby, if all else fails, a “common regulatory area” between the EU and UK will be established in the North.

After the agreement was officially published Mrs May claimed “no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to it” – however her comments in Europe this week suggested she had softened her stance.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme this morning however, Mr Davis said that while the UK had agreed to find a ‘backstop’ option – it won’t be “the backstop that the [European] Commission has laid out.”

He said Britain hoped its new trade deal with the EU would be “the most comprehensive one ever” and would make the border issue much easier to solve.

“There is a risk in trying to focus just on the downsides because the real likely outcome – again the overwhelmingly likely outcome – is option A,” he said.

“Option A is that we get a free-trade agreement, we get a customs agreement, all of those make the Northern Ireland issue much, much easier to solve.”

“Not easy but much, much easier.”

He also said the new deal would not be like Norway’s arrangement with the EU.

TWEWEWE

Pushed on the fact that a border like the one he envisages does not exist anywhere else in the world, he said: "We have got a whole load of new technology now."

"There are ways of dealing with this. You can't just say 'we haven't done it anywhere else' - we haven't attempted to do it anywhere else," he said.

He said the British Government remains fully committed to the Northern Irish peace process, claiming: “We will not allow a return to the borders of the past; we will “preserve, at all costs, the Belfast Agreement.”

The Taoiseach expects the ‘backstop’ to be officially agreed by October at the latest – and included in the overall withdrawal treaty between the UK and EU.

Legal guarantee

It comes as the British Labour Party said it would push for a legal guarantee there will be no return to a hard border.

The party is calling for a legally binding commitment to be included in the withdrawal legislation that is making its way through the UK Parliament.

The party’s shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is looking to rally cross party support in the UK to back an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Mr Starmer has already called for the UK to remain in the customs union in an effort to solve the impasse.

In an interview with the Observer newspaper, he indicated his party wanted a 'bespoke' deal between the UK and the EU – and indicated his party would be willing to compromise when it comes to maintaining the benefits of the customs union and single market after Brexit.

Asked about the Labour plan, Mr Davis said he would “have to see what they came up with.”


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