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Post-Brexit Border solution could take years, says former EU negotiator

June 5, 2018, The Irish Times

Sir Michael Leigh and Lord Francis Maude recently participated in a roundtable with The Irish Times to discuss Brexit developments. Commenting on the status of finding a solution to the Irish Border issue, Leigh and Maude said that they do not envisage a solution to maintain an invisible border being agreed until there is a deal on the future EU-UK trading relationship. They also do not see the UK agreeing to a legal text around the EU’s proposed default “backstop” agreement, which would keep Northern Ireland under EU economic rules in the absence of an alternative plan.

“The Irish Government is right to insist that the commitment of both sides should be translated into practical terms but I don’t think there is an immediate solution to that in the offing so I think that the European Council will come and go as an intermediate stage,” Leigh said.

According to Maude, the Government’s push for agreement on the legal text on the backstop by the next European Council meeting of EU leaders at the end of this month was not helpful to the negotiations. “What the Border arrangements, how they end up being, will have to reflect what the broader trading relationship is so to say that you have to agree to one aspect of that before you sort out the rest of it doesn’t make sense. That is putting the cart before the horse,” Maude said.

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