British Reject Plan to Keep Northern Ireland in Customs Union, Single Market

The Irish argue for integration, but hardliners in London can’t abide an “all-island” approach.

The Ulster Banner flies over Londonderry in Northern Ireland, August 17, 2009
The Ulster Banner flies over Londonderry in Northern Ireland, August 17, 2009 (Wikimedia Commons)

Britain is fighting an EU proposal to keep Northern Ireland in the bloc’s customs union and single market in order to avoid closing the border with the rest of the island.

“We will leave the EU in 2019 as one United Kingdom,” James Brokenshire, Theresa May’s Northern Ireland secretary, has said.

He argued on Monday it would be “impossible” for the province to remain half in EU when the rest of the country exits.

Opportunity for Ireland

In a document circulated among diplomats this week, the EU suggests there may be no need to close the border if regulations remain the same on both sides.

The Daily Telegraph reports the EU made the proposal at Ireland’s behest.

According to Bloomberg, it is aware that it essentially has veto power now and that once talks move on to trade it will be just one of 27 countries struggling to get its voice heard.

Hardliners

But hardliners in London can’t abide a so-called “all-island” approach.

It’s not just ardent Brexiteers in May’s Conservative Party who oppose it; the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, whose support she needs in Parliament, want a clean break with the EU as well and no integration with the Republic of Ireland.