No-deal Brexit ‘means hard border’ – European Commission

Europe

Irish border Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Both the UK and the EU have said they do not want to see a hard Irish border

It is “obvious” there will be a hard border in Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the European Commission’s chief spokesman has said.

Margaritis Schinas made the comments at the commission’s daily media briefing.

If he was pushed to speculate what might happen in a no-deal scenario, he said it was “pretty obvious you will have a hard border”.

The UK and Irish governments have both pledged to avoid a hard border.

However, last week, the UK prime minister said the EU had made it “clear there will be no flexibility on border checks in no deal”.

“The Irish government will be expected to apply EU checks in full,” added Theresa May.

Mr Schinas told reporters at Tuesday’s briefing: “If you’d like to push me and speculate on what might happen in a no-deal scenario in Ireland, I think it’s pretty obvious – you will have a hard border.

“And our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and everything that we have been doing for years with our tools, instruments and programmes will have to take, inevitably, into account this fact.

“So, of course we are for peace; of course we stand behind the Good Friday Agreement but that’s what a withdrawal… that’s a no-deal scenario, that’s what it [would] entail.

“So I will not now speculate on this plan B because, as I said seconds ago, we are for plan A, which is set by the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration as a package.”

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Last week, the withdrawal agreement was overwhelmingly rejected in Parliament, with Westminster MPs voting against Mrs May’s preferred deal by 432 votes to 202.

It was the largest defeat for a sitting British government in history.

Mrs May was asked to come up with alternative option and MPs are now due to vote on an amended version of her deal on 29 January.

On Monday, the prime minister told the House of Commons she will go back to EU leaders in a bid to secure changes to the Irish “backstop” – the controversial insurance policy designed to prevent a hard border if the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal.

However, there is little consensus in the Commons for any one solution to Brexit, and so MPs are currently putting forward a range of other options ahead of the 29 January vote.

Among the amendments suggested so far are plans to prevent a no-deal Brexit and to extend the deadline for leaving the EU.

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