Brexit: ‘Abide by’ EU rules to avoid hard border

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The future operation of the Irish border is one of the most sensitive Brexit issues

It will be “essential” for the UK to abide by EU rules on the single market and customs union to avoid a hard border in Ireland, the European Commission has suggested.

The details are contained in a paper as part of this week’s Brexit talks.

It adds the UK should ensure there is no divergence from arrangements which allow for cross-border cooperation.

Britain and the EU say they are committed to ensuring Brexit does not undermine the Good Friday agreement.

Neither want Brexit to lead to the emergence of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

The leaked paper stops short of saying a hard border can only be avoided by the UK or Northern Ireland staying in the Single Market or Customs Union.

However, it brings the commission closer to the European Parliament position which “presumes” that the UK or Northern Ireland will have to stay in the internal market and customs union.

It is also the clearest indication that the commission has accepted the Irish position on Brexit and the border issue.

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Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said ‘not enough progress’ has been made on Brexit

A spokesman for the UK’s department for leaving the EU said that that the government is committed to avoiding a hard border.

“We recognise that the solutions to the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland must respect the integrity of the EU single market and customs union.

“But they must also respect the integrity of the United Kingdom.

“The government is determined to find specific solutions to Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances, not least as the only part of the UK to share a land border with an EU member state.”

Earlier this week, the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney wrote a newspaper column is which he said “we will need the UK to make serious and significant commitments in respect of the border if we are to move to phase two in December.”

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