Hold second referendum on keeping Northern Ireland in EU customs union, Tory MEP suggests

Charles Tannock says voters should be able to decide

Jon Stone
Brussels
@joncstone
Wednesday 29 November 2017 16:43
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A second referendum would decide the status of NI under the proposal
A second referendum would decide the status of NI under the proposal

The deadlock over what the Irish border will look like after Brexit could be settled with a new referendum in Northern Ireland, a Conservative MEP has suggested.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels Charles Tannock said voters in the province should be given a say on whether or not to remain in the EU customs union.

Though Northern Ireland voted solidly to remain in the EU referendum it is being taken out of the EU along with the rest of the UK.

Brexit negotiations have become deadlocked on the issue of the border with the Republic, however, since Theresa May committed to taking the UK out of the customs union.

Both the EU and UK say they do not want a hard border on the island of Ireland, in line with the Good Friday agreement.

The EU has suggested keeping NI in the customs union and moving customs checks to ports on the Irish sea to avoid a border, but this is unacceptable to the British government and the DUP, the Northern Ireland party on which the Government relies for votes.

The Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has warned he will block any move to the next stage of Brexit talks unless the UK gives an assurance in writing that it will not reimpose a hard border.

The MEP Mr Tannock, who supports Remain and says he has applied for an Irish passport told the parliament’s constitutional affairs committee:

“Given the controversy and the dangers of getting this wrong, I really do think now that [a vote is] the only way to solve this democratically.”

Speaking at another committee hearing in Westminster on Wednesday, Northern Ireland minister Chloe Smith said the proposal was “not government policy” while Brexit minister Robin Walker said that the Government had been “very clear” that the result of the Brexit referendum applied across the whole UK.

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