Belfast Telegraph

'Flexible and imaginative' approach to Irish border needed, David Davis says

Addressing the impact of Brexit on the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic will require "flexible and imaginative solutions", David Davis acknowledged as Brussels said more work needed to be done on the issue.

The European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the Government had to clarify how the common travel area would be maintained and also raised concerns about the impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).

Brexit Secretary David Davis said the latest talks in Brussels had demonstrated that both sides in the negotiations on the UK's withdrawal from the EU were committed to the GFA.

Mr Barnier said: "We agree that the important issue of the Good Friday Agreement between Ireland and the UK, in all its dimensions requires more detailed discussions.

"In particular, more work needs to be done to protect North-South cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"Today, that cooperation is embedded in the common framework of EU law and EU policies.

"We need to better understand how the UK intends ensuring the continuation of this cooperation after Brexit.

"We also agree that the UK should clarify in the next session how it intends maintaining the common travel area after leaving the EU."

At a joint press conference in Brussels at the conclusion of four days of talks, Mr Davis said: "Both sides remain committed to the Good Friday Agreement and achieving flexible and imaginative solutions to address unique circumstances around the border and particularly on the North-South dimension of the agreement.

"These include the mechanisms we have discussed to preserve the common travel area and the rights associated with it, rights laid down, of course, in a British Act of Parliament as well as, in part at least, in the Amsterdam treaty."

Mr Davis also insisted the Conservative deal with the Democratic Unionist Party at Westminster would not impact on its role in attempts to restore devolved government to Northern Ireland.

He said: "The British Government continues to take incredibly seriously its requirement for impartiality irrespective of any deal of any sort."

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he was "satisfied with the direction of the discussions" but said more detailed work was needed on protecting North-South co-operation.

He said: "The specific question of the border was not part of this week's round of negotiations, and was never intended to be.

"However, the focus this week on protecting the gains of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts is of course directly relevant to the crucial objective of avoiding a hard border.

"My officials and I will continue to work closely with Michel Barnier and his team to ensure that sufficient progress is made on the Irish-specific issues in phase one of the negotiations."

Mr Coveney said Ireland wanted the "best possible withdrawal" agreement between the EU and UK.

In an apparent reference to Theresa May's mantra that "no deal is better than a bad deal", he said: " Contrary to what some may think, no agreement would be disastrous for everyone."

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