The future of the Irish border post-Brexit is looming large above the divorce talks between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The moods got worse earlier this week on both sides – just ahead of a summit that is widely seen as the last chance to reach a deal and find a common ground and overcome conflicting stances. After a year and a half, while negotiators on both sides tried hard to strike an amicable break-up deal, the issue at hand still remains – how to avoid a hard, policed, land border between the EU’s Ireland and Britain’s Northern Ireland following Brexit in March 2019.
EU Council President Donald Tusk still believes in a positive outcome, when he commented that “it always seems impossible until it’s done,” before asking both parties “let us not give up.” At the same time, he acknowledged that a break-up with no rules in place “is more likely than ever before.” British Prime Minister Theresa May added when speaking at the House of Commons in London on Monday that she did “not believe the EU and the UK are far apart.”
Despite these nice words, a chasm remains between both sides as to how to find a solution to the prickly issue of the Irish border. The EU wants Northern Ireland to stay in its custom union to avoid a land border but London say this solution creates “a border in the Irish Sea” between two parts of the United Kingdom. Instead, London is proposing instead to keep all of the UK in a customs union with the bloc but only temporarily. Mrs. May commented that the border chasm should not “derail the prospects of a good deal and leave us with the no-deal outcome that no one wants.”