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04 August 2017

Financial Times: Irish PM calls for EU-UK customs union as clock ticks on border

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Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, has suggested Britain could join a specially created customs union with the EU after it leaves the bloc, in a speech in which he warned that the clock was ticking to find solutions to Brexit-related problems on the island.

Mr Varadkar used the speech to warn of the dangers of introducing a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland after Brexit in March 2019 and said the onus was on advocates of a “hard Brexit” to come up with proposals for how a border would work.

They would have to convince citizens, students, academics, farmers and business people that it was in their interests to have “these new barriers to business and trade”, he said.

“They’ve already had 14 months to do so,” Mr Varadkar said. “If they cannot, and I believe they cannot, we can then talk meaningfully about solutions that might work for all of us.”

Mr Varadkar’s remarks prompted the UK government to say it had been clear it wanted a “deep and special” future relationship with the EU, including a “bold and ambitious” trade and customs agreement.

However, Mr Varadkar, leader of Ireland’s ruling Fine Gael party, said that, if the UK did not want to remain within the EU’s customs union, it might be possible to set up a new customs union between the UK and EU.

“After all, we have one with Turkey,” Mr Varadkar said. “Surely we can have one with the United Kingdom.”

If the UK did not want to remain in the EU’s single market, Mr Varadkar went on, perhaps the two sides could enter into a “deep free trade agreement”, with Britain rejoining the European Free Trade Association, to which it belonged before EU accession.

“And if this cannot be agreed now, then perhaps we can have a transition period during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union while these things are worked out,” Mr Varadkar said. [...]

Full article on Financial Times (subscription required)

Related articles:

LSE: The UK needs to come up with flexible and imaginative solutions for the Irish border

Open Europe: Progress on the Irish border issue will require both sides to start talking trade

© Financial Times

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