Belfast Telegraph

It's a start, but hard work ahead

Broad welcome for deal amid warning that key issues still to be hammered out

By Adrian Rutherford and Michael McHugh

Many details on the Irish border question are still to be hammered out, a senior unionist has warned.

Yesterday's deal between the EU and the UK means there will be no "hard border" separating Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Other key withdrawal issues such as citizens' rights and the UK's divorce bill were also settled on.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said the deal provides "high level" reassurances to launch negotiations around the small print. He suggested up to 142 areas of cross-border co-operation still needed to be dealt with.

"This is a guide as to the next stage, the next stage will tell you the detail and at that point Northern Ireland will see whether the devil is in the detail or the saviour is in the small print," he commented.

Sinn Fein said agreement on the border question represented progress -but warned that more work lies ahead.

Gerry Adams gave a "cautious and qualified welcome" to the agreement but said it didn't address key concerns.

The Sinn Fein president stated that it "set out broad principles" and represented "some progress" but urged Dublin to remain "focused and vigilant".

He said: "While the communique recognises the unique and special circumstances surrounding the issue of the Irish peace process, the Good Friday Agreement and the border, it does not address key areas of concern for many citizens - especially nationalists living in the north and citizens in the border region."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood welcomed the breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations and the promise of no hard border on the island of Ireland.

But he cautioned that the negotiations still have a long way to run.

"It appears the DUP tantrum has achieved small changes in emphasis and language in terms of the constitutional status," Mr Eastwood said. "If emphasis and language is the price of progress for avoiding a new border in Ireland, then so be it."

TUV leader Jim Allister said the agreement leaves many important questions unanswered.

He claimed it failed to bring "the clarity and assurance of complete Brexit which Northern Ireland requires".

Mr Allister added: "Coming anywhere close to such depends on the hope of a workable UK/EU trade deal, which the very existence of the foolish default position may parry. The terms of the default position - which is the most critical aspect of the deal - may prove a disincentive towards a deal for those whose biggest priority is to fuse Northern Ireland into the Republic. This is not a good position for us to be in."

Alliance MLA Stephen Farry stressed the agreement amounted to a foundation on which to build a workable solution for Northern Ireland, including the potential for the region continuing to participate in the Single Market, if the UK opts for a soft Brexit.

He stressed the agreement amounted to a foundation on which to build a worka ble solution for Northern Ireland, including the potential for NI continuing to participate in the Single Market, if the UK as a whole does not now opt for a soft Brexit.

Mr Farry added that it was a strong foundation on which to build.

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