UK proposes no 'hard' Irish border after Brexit
There will be no 'hard border' between Northern Ireland and the Republic when the UK leaves the European Union, expected in March 2019, according to a British position paper on the issue.
Brexit will create Britain's only land border with the EU. It runs for about 500 kilometres and is crossed by tens of thousands of people each day. Trade between the UK and Ireland was worth €19.9 billion euros in 2015, according to the British Irish Chamber of Commerce's website.
"There will be no passport controls for the UK and Irish citizens travelling within the Common Travel Area and no question of new immigration checks operating between Northern Ireland and Ireland," the UK's Department for Exiting the European Union said in a statement.
The CTA provides for easy travel between the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said on Twitter that the sooner the Irish question, along with the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and the country's 'divorce bill' is settled, the quicker negotiations can move to questions of customs and the future EU-UK relationship.
The Irish government said it will analyse the British proposals in detail.
"The emphasis on the priority areas identified by the government, including the Common Travel Area, the Good Friday Agreement, North/South cooperation and avoiding a hard border, is welcome," it said in a statement before the UK's position paper was published.
Support for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement -- which set the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and brought the province's Troubles to an end after thirty years of armed conflict --should be written into the Brexit agreement, the position paper said.
The agreement for the UK to leave the EU should also recognise that people in Northern Ireland have a birthright to both British and UK citizenship.
"Any people in Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens will continue to benefit from the EU citizenship rights that flow from that," the paper said.
It is the second from the British government in as many days.
On Tuesday the UK set out proposals for a future customs agreement with the bloc. It offered two proposals; a streamlined customs deal that would be "as frictionless as possible" to "reduce or remove barriers to trade" and a new customs partnership that removes the need for a UK-EU customs border."
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit coordinator said on twitter that those proposals are "a fantasy" and the divorce bill, along with citizens' rights need to be settled first.
(Alistair Holloway, firstname.lastname@example.org, +352 49 93 739)