Northern Ireland must be governed by EU rules after Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt says

European Parliament's Brexit lead says there must be 'no divergence' and calls UK Government's plans 'unacceptable'

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 27 February 2018 20:24 GMT
Northern Ireland must be governed by EU rules after Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt says

Northern Ireland must continue to abide by EU regulations after Brexit in order to guarantee there will not be a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, Guy Verhofstadt has said.

The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator said there should be “no divergence” between Northern Ireland and its southern neighbour.

Instead, “norms, rules and standards” must stay the same after Brexit, he said.

The warning will come as a blow to Theresa May after senior Cabinet ministers agreed plans for “ambitious managed divergence” from EU rules after Brexit.

Mr Verhofstadt said this was "unacceptable" to EU leaders.

Speaking to MEPs on the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, he said: “It is for us key that that there will be in future, whatever the outcome of the negotiations will be, that there is no divergence in norms, rules, standards between the north and Republic of Ireland.”

The Government reportedly wants to divide up the sectors of the economy into three “baskets” with varying levels of alignment with existing EU regulations.

Boris Johnson: Northern Irish border being used to try and keep the UK in the customs union

Mr Verhofstadt said: "For us and the Union, that is an unacceptable way of trying to establish a new relationship.

"That is absolutely not possible and that is the reason why Donald Tusk [the European Council president] said it is an illusion to continue on that track."

Earlier in the day Boris Johnson claimed that facilitating an agreement for people to freely cross the Northern Irish border would be as easy as Londoners travelling between boroughs.

The Foreign Secretary said: “We think that we can have very efficient facilitation systems to make sure that there's no need for a hard border, excessive checks at the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"There's no border between Islington or Camden and Westminster, there's no border between Camden and Westminster, but when I was Mayor of London, we anaesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people travelling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks whatever."

Despite the claims being ridiculed by politicians in Ireland, Downing Street played down the comments, suggesting the Foreign Secretary was “making a comparison” rather than offering a “technical solution’.

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