(Reuters) - The European Union will give Ireland some leeway to establish new border arrangements with Northern Ireland in case of a no-deal Brexit، sources in the bloc’s political hub Brussels said.
But they said Dublin would soon have to come up with a plan to ensure the integrity of the EU’s single market or face checks on its own goods coming into the rest of the bloc.
“Ireland can get transition periods or some temporary opt-outs on the border in the worst-case scenario،” a senior EU diplomat said.
“But soon enough it will have to face up to the fact that either there is a border on the island or a border between Ireland and the rest of the EU،” the person added.
EU diplomats and officials dealing with Brexit admit it is impossible to set up full border controls overnight as should theoretically be the case if the United Kingdom leaves the bloc without a divorce settlement on March 29.
The issue of a “hard border” on the island of Ireland has hung over Brexit negotiations from the start and is threatening to sink the divorce deal put together over months of painstaking EU-UK talks as the British parliament opposes the Irish “backstop” part of it.
The “backstop” is meant as a last resort، a way to prevent full-blown border controls on goods crossing between EU-state Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.
But without a UK-EU free trade deal، yet to be negotiated، that would tie the latter to the bloc’s trade rules - anathema to hardline pro-Brexit supporters in Britain and British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Northern Irish allies who say it would weaken the province’s links with the rest of the country.
Many in Britain، Ireland and the rest of the EU also fear the return of border checks could reignite violence and make checkpoints a target.
In 1998، Britain and Ireland made the Good Friday Agreement to end 30 years of sectarian violence over whether Northern Ireland should remain British or join the Irish Republic. With both states in the EU، checks along the 500-km (300-mile) land border ended.
“The Irish-Irish border is a European border. The Brexit issue is not a bilateral question between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. It’s a European issue،” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said after talks with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Brussels this month.