Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May’s Canadian border idea is rebuffed by Dublin

Theresa May has indicated she is looking at the customs arrangements between the US and Canada as a way of solving the Irish border issue created by Brexit.

But the Prime Minister, who has insisted she remains committed to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, was mocked over the comparison - with one MP telling her the US-Canada frontier has armed guards.

It comes ahead of a meeting between a DUP delegation led by Arlene Foster and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier this morning.

In Dublin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made clear a solution that resembled the North American border would not be acceptable in Ireland.

The issue of the border is one of the most complex problems to be resolved in the Brexit process and Mrs May said the government was examining examples from around the world.

Updating MPs following her Mansion House speech on Brexit, Mrs May said: "There are many examples of different arrangements for customs around the rest of the world. Indeed we are looking at those, including for example the border between the United States and Canada."

Brexit Secretary David Davis has previously highlighted the operation of the frontier near the Ford plant in Detroit as an example of how cross-border trade can operate smoothly.

But when it was later pointed out to the Prime Minister by shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman that there were "armed customs guards" at the US-Canada border, Mrs May said the government was looking at arrangements "in a number of countries".

The Taoiseach was asked about Mrs May's remarks after a meeting with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel at Government Buildings in Dublin last night. Mr Varadkar recalled his own trip to the US-Canada border last year.

"I saw a hard border with physical infrastructure, with customs posts, people in uniforms with arms and dogs and that is definitely not a solution that is one that we can possibly entertain," he said.

Amid the ongoing row over the border, Sinn Fein leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill travelled to Brussels to meet Mr Barnier.

Mrs McDonald said: "The Taoiseach is absolutely correct to say that the substantive negotiation is between the British government on one hand and the EU member states collectively on the other and in our view it is important to maintain that dynamic."

Mr Barnier, who is due to meet DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds in Brussels today, said his discussions with Sinn Fein had been positive. He tweeted: "Essential to listen to all voices in Northern Ireland."

Last night, Mrs Foster said: "The DUP wants to see a sensible Brexit which works for Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom but also for our nearest neighbours too.

"We will not countenance any proposal which would create a new border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

"The economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom must be respected and protected. Some 72% of all goods leaving Belfast port are destined for Great Britain."

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