An agreement with Ireland has reportedly been reached which will ensure Brexit will not mean a hard border between the republic and Northern Ireland. This can only mean remaining in the single market, and other parts of Britain want the same treatment.
From the start, the idea of leaving the European Union (EU) and the single market in a ‘hard Brexit’ has snagged on the question of the border between Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (RoI). With RoI being an EU member state, crossing the border with NI would entail customs charges, passport control and the like. It should be noted that 55.8 per cent of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU. Moreover, 62 per cent of Scots voted remain, as did 59.9 per cent of Londoners. A whopping 95.1 per cent of Gibraltarians voted to remain.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon asked on Twitter if one rule can apply to Northern Ireland, then why not other areas in the UK that overwhelmingly wanted to remain.
If one part of UK can retain regulatory alignment with EU and effectively stay in the single market (which is the right solution for Northern Ireland) there is surely no good practical reason why others can’t.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) December 4, 2017
London mayor Sadiq Khan echoed Sturgeon’s sentiment, wondering publicly if London can follow Northern Ireland’s suit.
Huge ramifications for London if Theresa May has conceded that it’s possible for part of the UK to remain within the single market & customs union after Brexit. Londoners overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and a similar deal here could protect tens of thousands of jobs.
— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) December 4, 2017
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party is essential to Theresa May’s minority government. Already DUP leader Arlene Foster is using her leverage and has released a statement after rumours began circling about an agreement reached between the UK and Ireland, stating that the integrity, unity, and strength of the UK must not be compromised.
“We have been very clear: Northern Ireland must leave the European Union on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom and we will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the UK,” she said. “And the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom must not be compromised in any way.
“The prime minister has told the House of Commons that there will be no border in the Irish Sea. And the prime minister has been clear that the UK is leaving the European Union as a whole, that the territorial and economic integrity of the United Kingdom will be protected.”
Former first minister of Northern Ireland Lord David Trimble has called the yet-to-be-confirmed decision a “thoroughly bad idea,” while some have wondered what precedent the Irish/UK decision may set for other free trade agreements.
Lord Trimble ‘I’m scratching my head’, but if details of what we expect are right, ‘it’s a thoroughly bad idea’
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) December 4, 2017
If we concede “regulatory alignment” in Ireland, and there can be no border within the UK, then surely this dramatically curtails scope for UK free trade agreements with others like US? #Brexithttps://t.co/LshaSID7j7
— Peter Ricketts (@LordRickettsP) December 4, 2017
Others took a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the move, which many are already viewing as a watered-down approach to Brexit from PM Theresa May.
BREAKING: The UK Government will set up a hotline for any local authorities or landowners above 500 hectares who wish to sign up for EU regulatory alignment in their area. Please call 020 7276 BREX https://t.co/TTElrUPi5I
— Laurence Dodds (@LFDodds) December 4, 2017
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was expected to release a formal statement once negotiations were completed at 2.30pm Monday, but a spokesperson for Varadkar has said that the announcement has been postponed.