, 8 tweets, 2 min read
After his meeting with Boris Johnson, Leo Varadkar said it should not be seen in terms of concessions or of winners and losers. He is probably right.
For the Irish side to suggest to Michel Barnier that the talks produced the basis for renewed negotiations between the UK and the EU, there must have been progress on the toughest issue - customs.
Johnson cannot move from his position that Northern Ireland must leave the EU customs union with the rest of the UK. But that has never been a red line for the EU and Varadkar hinted that Ireland was not wedded to it either.
Asked if NI must stay in the EU customs union he said: “It remains our position that there cannot be a hard border between North and South. And we must continue to have a situation whereby the all-island economy can continue to deepen and function well.”
So the EU can accept two customs territories on the island of Ireland. But it cannot accept Johnson’s Heath Robinson plan for a light-touch customs border between North and South. And it wants customs checks alongside regulatory checks in the Irish Sea.
The only solution currently under discussion that could square the customs circle is a reduced version of Theresa May’s New Customs Partnership. This would see NI leave the EU customs union with the rest of the UK.
But it would be treated administratively as if it was part of it. The proposal has problems for both sides but it satisfies the most important concerns of each of them.
The action moves to Brussels on Friday, when Barnier will determine if the Johnson/Varadkar meeting warranted the optimism it has generated. /ENDS
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