BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union awaits new proposals from London this week on the biggest hurdle in Brexit talks - keeping the 500-kilometre border between the bloc’s member Ireland and British province of Northern Ireland open after Brexit, due next March.
The EU set out its negotiating position in a paper circulated on Friday among the 27 states that are remaining in the bloc. Following is a summary of the main points in that document, which was seen by Reuters.
- “Brexit creates two distinct customs and regulatory spaces between the EU and the UK. The only land border between these two spaces is on the island of Ireland,” the paper says. EU proposals for the so-called ‘backstop’ solution, which would take effect if no other agreement is made, are aimed at “keeping the land border invisible”.
- The EU must know that any goods entering its space comply with rules on health and security, as well as the bloc’s international obligations, including at the WTO.
The EU hence wants to ensure it has “information about what is entering the EU’s space; controls of what is potentially most dangerous for public health (live animals, animal-derived products); the possibility to carry out controls on all other goods,” the document says.
“These are the basic requirements for controlling not only the EU’s external border, but any border between countries with distinct customs and regulatory regimes,” it adds.
- The EU says its own backstop proposal, which requires alignment between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland, “strictly limits” those rules to what is necessary to avoid a hard border: legislation on goods, customs, VAT and excise; sanitary rules for veterinary controls; rules on agricultural production and state aid.
“The backstop does not cover issues such as immigration, services, healthcare, social and environmental policy, social welfare etc,” the document says.
- “This selective approach gives part of a non-member state, Northern Ireland, benefits which no other non-EU member state has... It is tailored to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, and cannot be applied anywhere else,” it says.
- The EU says its own proposal has been pragmatic, built on existing health checks on animals and agricultural goods between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, and provides flexibility to simplify other controls - including regulatory and VAT - away from Irish Sea ports.
- The EU rejects giving the Northern Irish devolved provincial government separate say over the backstop.
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Peter Graff