According to Donald Tusk on Twitter several minutes ago, he and Theresa May are “getting closer to sufficient progress” to attack stage two talks in December. “Tell me why I like Mondays! Encouraged after my phone call with Taoiseach @campaignforleo on progress on #Brexit issue of Ireland,” – he wrote.
Today, the British Prime minister is meeting with the European Commission president and the president of the European Council in Brussels. Theresa May has to present workable solutions for the Irish border, the EU citizens’ rights and the Brexit financial settlement. If everything goes well, in two weeks the UK will be able to move on to the Brexit trade negotiations.
Earlier this morning, a special meeting of the Irish cabinet was organised. According to a leaked draft, British and Irish officials have agreed that there will be “continued regulatory alignment” between Ireland and Northern Ireland to protect the soft border. However, it is still unclear if a deal was signed.
Helen McEntee, Ireland’s Europe minister, doesn’t think “that we will have an absolute final text that we will be able to approve.” “My belief – and I think we would all agree in the government in Ireland – is we need to have something that is much clearer than we’ve had to date,” she said.
Ms McEntee fears that any hard border means returning to “the troubles of the past”, referring to the violent political and nationalistic conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted for almost 40 years and resulted in more than 3,500 civilians dead. It ended with the Good Friday agreement in 1998, but now the Brexit talks may put the hard-won peace in danger.
Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, too said that his country “can’t be asked to leap into the dark”, with no formal guarantees from the UK government.
Basically, the Irish side just wants Mrs May to honour the statement she made in her Florence speech earlier this year. “We have both stated explicitly we will not accept physical infrastructure at the border,” she said. And maybe today, for the first time since September, we will see a concrete suggestion on how to make that happen.
Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, will make a statement on the Phase I Brexit talks this afternoon. The Taoiseach, who has been frequently accused of taking a too aggressive stance towards Britain during the Brexit negotiations, argued that he just wanted some “practical common sense and for people to be able to cross the border.”
If Mrs May doesn’t manage to find common ground on the border issue with Mr Juncker today, the UK will not be allowed to discuss the Brexit trade deal during the Summit in December.
According to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, “if the UK offer is unacceptable for Ireland, it will also be unacceptable for the EU. The key to the UK’s future lies – in some ways – in Dublin, at least as long as Brexit negotiations continue.”
Let’s hope that Mrs May has enough skills to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s left.
Don’t go too far and stay tuned for new updates!