Belfast Telegraph

Irish government demands special status for Northern Ireland after Brexit and invisible border

By Colm Kelpie

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has set out his post-Brexit vision for an invisible border with Northern Ireland retaining a connection to the Customs Union.

Mr Coveney said Dublin will be pushing for a special deal - "unique status" - for Northern Ireland to ensure the border remains as close as possible to the current arrangement.

That could see the province retaining a link to the Customs Union, he said, adding that Michel Barnier, Europe's chief Brexit negotiator, is on board.

A scenario that would see a customs barriers, even an "e-border" using technology, would be a non-runner, the minister added.

"We're not going to stand for that," he added. "If we get to that point, we're not where we want to be."

"Ireland's staying in the Customs Union. So if we're going to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, there needs to be some relationship with the Customs Union and common market that allows Northern Ireland to be able to operate the way that it does today," the minister said.

He said that if we think in terms of Northern Ireland being simply in, or out of the Customs Union or single market, then it's "almost impossible to see a solution".

"That's why in the terms of reference for the EU negotiating team, they talk about imaginative and flexible solutions will be required, and they will be. We will need to think differently in terms of how Northern Ireland relates to and interacts to the common market."

Those solutions need to be devised without threatening the integrity of the UK, or the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, he added. The plan, therefore, entails Northern Ireland leaving the European Union with the rest of the UK.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said he was disappointed at Mr Coveney's calls for "special status" in Northern Ireland, which he described as "a thinly veiled attempt to break up the Union".

"As the Belfast Agreement makes clear, Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom until its people say otherwise," he said.

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