Irish Border: Deal or No Deal?

by Hannah Woodward

Theresa May has once again clarified that the United Kingdom are yet to strike a deal to move to the next stage of the Brexit process. The other 27 EU nations have stated that progress must be made on the Irish border, the so-called “divorce bill” and the rights of EU nationals must be in order to maintain any form of future trading relationship between the UK and the bloc. With so many conflicting beliefs centred on the border in Ireland, will this issue ever be resolved?

Carwyn Jones, on responding to reports about possible concessions on the Irish border outlined that: “For me the way to deal with this is to say ‘look, the UK will stay in the customs union – and that means of course the border can remain as it is’ It was a mistake for the prime minister to rule out keeping the whole of the UK in the single market early in the process,” later noting that “At the time of the referendum nobody talked about the customs union at all”.

The First Minister compared the proposed model to Norway, a country that has access to the single market, and as a result Jones is clearly proposing a soft Brexit for the United Kingdom. A hard Brexit type of deal would reduce Britain’s GDP by 6.2% and most likely result in Britain being poorer by £4,300 per household. Osborne pointed out that a net loss of £36bn a year was the equivalent of a third of the annual budget for NHS England, thus for the sake of the United Kingdom a soft Brexit must happen.

Access to the single market in a post Brexit society would be crucial to whether admission to the current Irish border system would be permissible for the United Kingdom. In true Trump style, Jones later took his views on this to Twitter, tweeting: “We cannot allow different parts of the UK to be more favourably treated than others”.

Jones is clearly concerned about the futurity of the Irish border, considering relations between Holyhead in Wales and Northern Ireland. Plaid Cymru stated, in agreement with Jones, that “any special deals” made available to one part of the UK must also be available to others, including Wales.The party said that any deal to “shift the hard border to Wales’s coast” could be “catastrophic” for Welsh ports like Holyhead.

Wales, which has a heavy agriculture industry, has witnessed this industry express concern for the state of Brexit negotiations, with Brian Thomas, deputy President of the Farmers’ Union of Wales, stating “Whilst we recognise that the Irish border situation presents some unique challenges that need to be overcome, rural Wales has challenges of its own”. He pointed to its “heavy reliance” on red meat exports to the EU.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said she had been told by Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts that the UK had made a concession on the Irish border. Mr Lamberts had said the UK was prepared to accept that Northern Ireland may remain in the EU’s customs union and single market in all but name. But, she stressed, the BBC has not seen the draft document nor had it been signed off. As a result only time will tell whether Wales will see a change.