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UK's Northern Ireland Brexit plan 'magical thinking' and peace can't be used as bargaining chip: EU

Michel Barnier (right) and the UK's Brexit Secretary David Davis (Geert Vanden Wijngaer/AP)
Michel Barnier (right) and the UK's Brexit Secretary David Davis (Geert Vanden Wijngaer/AP)

The European Union has warned the UK it won't allow Northern Ireland to be used as a "bargaining chip" in the Brexit negotiations, saying proposals so far from London on the border were "magical thinking".

The comments were made by a senior EU official in a briefing to the Press on Friday ahead of another round of Brexit talks next week.

A position paper released last week set out how UK government officials thought the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic  should be solved once the UK leaves the EU.

It suggested there should be no border posts but a mix of technology and physical checks to ensure big businesses were complying with customs rules. Smaller businesses, the proposals laid out, should be allowed to move goods freely across the border.

Speaking to reporters, the senior EU official dismissed the idea.

“We are concerned by the linkages created in the UK paper on Ireland between the preservation of the peace process, including the invisible border and the future of the EU-UK trade relationship,” said the official in a Guardian report.

“The peace process must not be a bargaining chip in these negotiations.”

Part of the position set out concerning agri-food, health and electricity arrangements mirrored the current conditions of the UK remaining in the EU, the official said.

The official repeated that it was up to the UK to take responsibility and on how it affected Ireland. He said that while it was "good on aspirations" it was short on "workable solutions".

"The decision to leave the EU was the UK’s decision," said the official. "It was not the decision of Ireland. It was not the decision of the EU."

“What we see in the UK paper is a lot of magical thinking about how the border could work."

He also said a “lack of substance” from the UK side was slowing progress. 

In response a UK government spokesperson said the accusations were "puzzling" and suggested the EU didn't "properly understand the sensitivities or appreciate the human costs behind hard-won progress in Northern Ireland."

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