Brussels to leave Britain full responsibility for sorting Irish border after Brexit

Foreign Minister Minister Simon Coveney

Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd welcomed confirmation in the Commission's paper that the European Union would be seeking special status for Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said their private discussions demonstrated a clear willingness to speak openly and frankly about issues that needed to be resolved and to explore the potential for finding agreement.

It's easy not to have a border between two states that are both part of the EU's single market (the regulatory regime that allows easy trade across the EU) and customs union (the arrangement under which European states do not impose customs duties on each other and maintain a common customs policy toward all other countries).

British officials close to the negotiating team blamed the deadlock on Mr Barnier's "inflexible" approach to talks, pointing to his mandate that they said was preventing him from discussing future arrangements.

But on the border itself, it said the United Kingdom must come up with "flexible and imaginative solutions to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland".

Mr Barnier is expected to be quizzed about the contents of the documents at a press conference in Brussels on Thursday afternoon. "He said a responsible and sensible way forward had to be achieved".

The government says the legislation is crucial to disentangle Britain from the European Union after more than four decades of membership. It is 500km long, with 260 road crossings, a Dublin-Belfast rail link, tourist waterways and 2 million cars moving back and forth every month.

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"Ensuring the avoidance of a hard border on the island of Ireland is central to protecting the gains of the peace process underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement", it said.

'The present paper does not put forward solutions for the Irish border, ' the papers state.

The European Union is willing to offer Northern Ireland a different Brexit deal to the rest of the UK.

"The Belfast Agreement does include within it certain responsibilities in relation to the government of the Republic of Ireland in north-south co-ordination".

In July, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that his government "was not going to be helping" the United Kingdom design a border and that it was the UK's responsibility to "put forward their proposals as to how they think a border should operate".

His comments came after Brussels published a paper setting out the EU's aims for Ireland after Brexit.

"It is wrong that border issues and the genuine concerns held by those living and working in affected communities can be exploited in this way", she said.

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