The UK must find a solution to the Irish-border issue if Brexit talks are to continue, the EU has warned. It comes as Brussels is accused of acting like gangsters, “throwing threats of violence around” in the negotiating process.
EU President Donald Tusk issued a bold statement to Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, saying that if talks about the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc are to go ahead, she must find “realistic” proposals to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the south. Speaking alongside Irish PM Leo Varadkar, Tusk said talks would be a case of “Ireland first.”
“We know today that the UK government rejects a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, the EU single market, and the customs union,” Tusk said. “While we must respect this position, we also expect the UK to propose a specific and realistic solution to avoid a hard border.
“As long as the UK doesn’t present such a solution, it is very difficult to imagine substantive progress in Brexit negotiations. If in London someone assumes that the negotiations will deal with other issues first before the Irish issue, my response would be: Ireland first,” the EU leader said, according to The Independent.
The comments come as EU chiefs were compared to gangsters who are “throwing threats of violence around” to get what they want on Brexit. During a speech to the British Chamber of Commerce, Arlene Foster, the leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), attacked the EU’s hardening stance on both trade and the Irish border.
Criticizing the European Commission’s “bad faith” on the border issue, Foster hit out at the view of Brussels leaders that not accepting proposals for keeping the border open would encourage a return of terrorism – which, she said, was tantamount to a threat.
Foster told the conference of business leaders in London: “I do object, in the strongest terms, to people who have limited experience of the Troubles in Northern Ireland throwing threats of violence around as some kind of bargaining chip in the negotiating process. To do so is an insult to the people of Northern Ireland, who have worked so hard to bring peace to our country.
“I can remember the evening when the IRA shot my father [and], in a bloodstained state, he crawled into our kitchen. I remember the day the IRA bombed my school bus, severely injuring the girl sitting beside me. When I talk about the border in a Brexit scenario, I don’t speak about some far away land, I speak about home.”
Meanwhile, Liam Fox, the UK’s international trade secretary, compared the bloc to “gangsters,” as he rejected its notion that British trade would be worse-off post-Brexit. He told the BBC: “The idea of punishing Britain is not the language of a club, it’s the language of a gang. We need to begin this argument by putting politics aside and do what is in the economic interests of the people we represent.”
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