Davis says post-Brexit regulatory alignment for all of UK, not just Northern Ireland
UK Brexit Minister David Davis has said that the plan to maintain regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the EU to avoid a hard border in Ireland would apply to the entirety of the UK. He made his comments in Parliament today as the government scrambled to salvage talks that threatened to become derailed after the DUP objected to any arrangement that would treat it differently to the rest of the UK once it leaves the EU. Davis was summoned to Parliament to answer questions from MPs in the wake of yesterday’s dramatic events when talks broke down between the British and Irish governments over how to avoid the return of border checkpoints on the island.
The DUP threatened to pull their support for the Conservative government once details were leaked of the proposed deal which supposedly would have seen Northern Ireland maintain EU regulations to allow for continued borderless trade between Belfast and Dublin. DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds said that any deal which kept Northern Ireland within the EU customs union while the rest of the UK left it was “clearly unacceptable.“ In a phone call with Theresa May shortly after she had come to an agreement over the wording of the text with her Irish counterpart, the DUP Leader Arlene Foster made it clear that she was willing to pull her party’s support for the Conservative government, a move that would likely have triggered fresh elections.
Today in Parliament Davis reaffirmed London’s commitment not to leave Northern Ireland within the EU customs union after Brexit, arguing instead that the government had intended for the agreement announced yesterday to apply to the rest of the UK also. “The presumption of the discussion was that everything we talked about applied to the whole United Kingdom,” Davis said. He also sought to placate Brexiteers who might fear that this would mean the UK would continue to be bound by EU regulations – which, for many, was one of the core reasons for leaving. “Alignment,” he said “isn’t harmonisation. It isn’t having exactly the same rules. It is sometimes having mutually recognised rules, mutually recognised inspection – that is what we are aiming at.”
Speaking to the Irish parliament today, Taoiseach (Prime Minister” Leo Varadkar said “I look forward to hearing from [the British government) as to how they think we can proceed. The ball is now in London’s court.”