Barnier: UK plan for N. Ireland as unworkable and unacceptable

Barnier: UK plan for N. Ireland as unworkable and unacceptable

He added it was "lucky" that the lead Brexit negotiator for the EU was Michel Barnier, who thanks to his previous work in the European Commission had a "better understanding than many people in the EU" about how hard the issue of Ireland could be.

Prime Minister Theresa May's office distributed a letter to major United Kingdom companies for senior executives to sign praising her government's Brexit strategy, according to a draft seen by Bloomberg.

Brussels has insisted the UK makes "sufficient progress" on its financial settlement - as well as the Irish border issue and rights of EU citizens in Britain - before talks can move on to discussions over the future EU-UK trade relationship.

People and goods now move freely across the Irish border, but there are concerns that this can not be sustained after Brexit, though both sides say they want to avoid a "hard" border.

Details will be published by Europe's chief negotiator Michel Barnier in a position paper later.

Mr Eastwood said: "Minister Coveney's position that there can be no return to "British only" direct rule is a statement entirely consistent with the logic and the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement".

At present, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is an internal European Union border with no checkpoints or controls.

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The Government is keen to move on to talks about the UK's future relations with the European Union beyond the three areas already discussed.

"A special economic zone in Northern Ireland could be recognised by the EU as being distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of single market and customs union access", he said.

The claim came despite David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, publicly accepting, in July, that the European Union had a right to expect the divorce settlement to be discussed first.

Written in the series of position papers are plans to protect Irish cross-border co-operation in areas like health, education, transport and fishing. It is feared that implementing a physical border with checkpoints, as existed during the Troubles between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland in the late 20th century, could reignite nationalist tension.

Lord Jay, a leading member of the committee who will open the debate, said it was "scandalous" that the issue of the Northern Ireland border was not addressed more fully during the referendum campaign.

He added: "Creativity and flexibility can not be at the expense of the integrity of the single market and customs union". "It has to be part of the solution as well, the solution can't come entirely from the European Union", he said.

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