Belfast Telegraph

Checks at Irish border ‘unavoidable’ after Brexit, warns Barnier

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has given an update on the state of talks following the latest round of discussions in Brussels.

Checks at the Irish border will be “unavoidable” under Theresa May’s Brexit plans for the UK to leave the single market and customs union, Michel Barnier has warned.

Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator also told reporters that agreement on a transitional deal after the UK leaves the bloc in March 2019 was “not a given”.

After the latest round of Brexit talks between officials in Brussels, he said three “substantial” disagreements remain with the UK over plans for a transition period.

He added: “If these disagreements persist the transition is not a given.”

On the issue of the Irish border he told reporters: “Any solution must be precise, clear and unambiguous.”

He added: “It is important to tell the truth. A UK decision to leave the single market and to leave the customs union would make border checks unavoidable.”

DUP MEP Diana Dodds, responding to Mr Barnier's comments, said: "“Mr Barnier’s warning of customs controls is out of step with the three approaches set out in December’s phase one Joint Report between the UK and Brussels. That agreement makes it clear that the integrity of the UK must be preserved as our nation leaves the single market and customs union.

"Everyone has committed to avoiding a hard border and the UK has said it will not impose physical infrastructure at the border. It seems it is only the EU that is brandishing the threat of customs controls. The impact would not be isolated to companies and consumers in Northern Ireland. The Irish beef sector, which sells 52% of all its exports to the UK, would be only one of many devastated. Perhaps this is the reason Mr Barnier doesn’t repeat his message of chaos to Dutch flower growers or German car manufacturers, who also rely on the UK as their biggest export market.

"It remains the DUP’s position that best vehicle for finding border solutions is via the future UK-EU relationship, through a comprehensive free trade agreement and a fresh customs partnership with Brussels."

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