Belfast Telegraph

Ireland 'will have hardest border in Europe if there's a no deal Brexit'

Merkel ally paints stark picture as May pledges Brexit plan will work

By Shona Murray and PA

Ireland will be forced into living with the "hardest border in Europe" if the UK crashes out without a Brexit deal, a key ally of Angela Merkel has starkly warned.

Major European countries will inevitably crank up pressure on the Republic on the issue amid growing fears that the border sticking points will scupper an orderly Brexit.

In a blunt warning detailing the catastrophe that lies ahead if a 'no deal' Brexit materialises, Joachim Pfeiffer painted a dire picture of the outcome.

Mr Pfeiffer said Ireland would "have a border like we have a border with Ukraine or Belarus" as there would no longer be treaties in place with the UK that would ensure the rules and standards of the EU would be respected.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, he warned that while Germany was willing to help, it had its own domestic issues to resolve.

"We cannot solve the problem between Ireland and Northern Ireland," added the economic and energy policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in Germany.

Senior French sources have also told the newspaper that under a hard Brexit, Ireland is primarily accountable to the EU and its single market.

In a no deal Brexit scenario, the new EU-UK relationship would be inferior to the EU's relationship with Russia.

Under World Trade Organisation rules, and as an EU member state, Ireland will be obliged to collect EU tariffs for goods coming in to the country from the UK.

In addition, under the rules of the EU's single market, the Republic has a responsibility to protect the internal market from any unauthorised or substandard goods.

"I don't know any other border countries which have no treaties with the EU," Mr Pfeiffer continued.

"We have Norway, Switzerland and there are hundreds of treaties and rules in place there, and still there is a border."

Turning to the western Balkans and Ukraine or Moldova, he added that "even with Russia we have some rules".

A huge challenge lies ahead if the UK diverges from EU rules and regulations in order to fulfil any trade deals it eventually completes.

"From this second (the UK leaves) they will be going in different directions," he warned.

As the country at the frontline, the Republic will be obliged to prevent such substandard goods getting into the internal market.

"There will be hourly changes - there will be divergence in every sector," said Mr Pfeiffer.

"I don't see at the moment a solution in detail which addresses the open questions."

He said that although the rest of Europe is still "hopeful" that a deal can be thrashed out, Ireland is just one of several member states facing turmoil.

"Probably it is the case that you have to establish this kind of border next year. I don't want it; hopefully we can avoid it," he said. He added it would be "the hardest border we have in Europe".

Mr Pfeiffer said it will be the Republic's responsibility to erect and manage the border on the EU side, and the UK's task to manage the territory of Northern Ireland.

He said that other European countries had their own problems to resolve. "For you it's a problem but in Germany nobody is thinking about Brexit," he said.

"Brexit is not a top issue in Germany. We have a lot of domestic problems.

"Germany has a very positive image of Ireland. People like Ireland and want Ireland to stay connected to Europe, and so if there is some help needed, there's an openness to help.

"But there are a lot of problems all over and everybody needs to deal with his own challenge and fulfil their own task.

"We cannot solve the problem between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"Hopefully we can resolve this through negotiation, but I advise Ireland to get ready."

Senior French sources have also warned Ireland over its accountability to the EU and its single market.

"I'm sorry to say that Ireland may find itself at a harsh confrontation where it must obey the rules of the single market ahead of the political landscape with Britain," a French source said.

"Of course we don't want this and we'll help to get a deal, but it appears impossible with the UK right now," they added.

Meanwhile, yesterday the EU's chief Brexit negotiator questioned whether Theresa May's proposals for customs arrangements are workable, in his first public response to last week's white paper.

Speaking after briefing ministers from the 27 remaining EU states in Brussels, Michel Barnier said the white paper has opened the way for "constructive discussions" on the post-Brexit relationship between the EU and the UK.

And he indicated the EU was ready to amend its "backstop" proposals for the Irish border, which have become the biggest stumbling block in talks.

He said there were elements of the plan agreed by the Cabinet earlier this month at Chequers which the European Commission did not understand, and said further discussions would be needed over the coming weeks to establish how much "common ground" exists between London and Brussels.

Belfast Telegraph

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