The European Parliament is to call for Northern Ireland to stay in the single market and customs union in order to protect the integrity of the EU’s borders.
MEPs have concluded it is the best solution to the problem of ensuring there is no border in Ireland. The move has the support of all major political groups.
It would mean continued free movement on the island of Ireland, with customs checks instead taking place at ports on the Irish sea for visitors travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The resolution, set to be voted on hours before Theresa May’s make-or-break Tory conference speech, rubbishes Britain’s existing proposals on the issue and is set to enrage DUP MPs propping up Ms May’s Government.
Only yesterday the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said not enough progress had been made on Europe’s key objectives – the financial settlement, EU citizens and Ireland – for the discussions to move on to the future trade deal the UK wants.
Both the UK and EU believe there should be no “hardening” of the border with the Republic, which is currently not policed – but disagree on how to do this while Ireland remains inside the EU’s borders and the UK leaves them.
The Independent understands that European Parliament chiefs believe shifting border posts to Irish sea ports is the optimal solution. One source said the EU’s physical border had to be somewhere and could not just have a gaping hole in it.
European Parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt (European Parliament)
The resolution rubbishes Britain’s proposals for an infrastructureless NI border based on spot checks and says that the UK plan for a lack of physical infrastructure “presumes that the United Kingdom stays in the internal market and customs union or that Northern Ireland stays in some form in the internal market and customs union”. The PM has ruled out keeping the UK as a whole in the customs union or single market.
At a press…