By Conor Humphries
DUBLIN (Reuters) – New thinking is needed from the British government to secure agreement on the Irish border and allow Brexit talks to move onto the next phase as the current proposals are not credible, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Tuesday.
Brussels wants three issues broadly solved before it decides in December whether Brexit talks can move onto a second phase about trade, as Britain wants. These are Britain’s exit bill, safeguarding expatriate rights, and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will be the UK’s only land frontier with the EU after its departure.
After the latest round of negotiations ended with little obvious progress last week, Coveney said there was still a way to go on the border proposals before the negotiating teams would be able to move on to the next phase.
“The current approach the British government are taking is not compatible with the solutions that we need,” Coveney told reporters.
“Some of the ideas they published in their paper late in the summer hint toward finding solutions to those problems, but I don’t think they are comprehensive or credible … We need more detail and we need to see some new thinking that is flexible and recognizes the unique challenges of the island of Ireland.”
He was referring to proposals in August when London said there should be no infrastructure or electronic surveillance on the 500-km (300-mile) border, with smaller firms exempted from any new customs processes and “trusted trader arrangements” put in place to reduce the burden for larger companies.
Coveney said Ireland did not think Britain’s three aims of quitting the EU’s single market and customs union, that the whole of United Kingdom leave together, and that there be no border infrastructure were compatible.
The European Union agreed with Dublin’s position, he said.
Some 30,000 people travel across the border every day via over 400 crossings without any controls, and the issue is particularly sensitive given the decades of violence over whether Northern Ireland should be part of the UK or Ireland. Around 3,600 people were killed before a 1998 peace agreement.
Dublin has said that the best way to retain the status quo is by keeping the same rules and regulations on both sides of the border.
“We need a credible plan to avoid the imposition of border infrastructure in the future and we don’t have it yet,” Coveney said.
(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Padraic Halpin and Catherine Evans)