Irish Border Issue Could Complicate Brexit Negotiations - Analyst

© REUTERS / Hannah Mckay/FileA demonstrator carries a Union Jack and a European Union flag as the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier visits Downing Street in London, Britain
A demonstrator carries a Union Jack and a European Union flag as the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier visits Downing Street in London, Britain - Sputnik International
The first draft of the Brexit treaty that will set out the relationship between Britain and the European Union is set to include an option for Northern Ireland to follow EU rules in order to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Republic of Ireland.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which offers support to Theresa May’s government, says details of the draft treaty have fundamentally breached an agreement reached in Brussels in December last year. Now Foreign secretary Boris Johnson has said the row over the border in Northern Ireland is being used to frustrate Brexit negotiations and there are very good solutions being proposed in order to stop a hard border. Sputnik spoke to Liam Kennedy, Professor of Economic History at Queen's University Belfast.

Sputnik: What do you make of Boris Johnson saying the border is being used as a bargaining chip in Brexit?

Liam Kennedy: Well it’s designed to infuriate people in Northern Ireland and particularly in the Irish republic, it may have been a throw away remark but it’s remarkably careless and will simply generate ill feeling. It will also generate suspicions about how serious the British negotiators are about a frictionless border.

Sputnik: The Draft treaty proposes NI stays aligned with the EU, how will this impact the relationship between the DUP & the Conservatives?

Liam Kennedy: This is another case for infuriation, unless the DUP the Democratic Unionists shifts its position, it has absolutely ruled that out, you may recall some weeks ago, Theresa May was embarrassed when she was unable to conclude a preliminary agreement.

So if the DUP sticks to its guns, its confrontation time unless Theresa May’s government can come up with some kind of fudge but its terrible difficult to see how they could do that, so I suppose the worst case scenario from a Tory view point the DUP will dig in their heels and we might be moving in the direction of a general election.

Sputnik: Boris Johnson has also been in for criticism over his letter referring to if there was a hard border, where will this leave the negotiations?

Liam Kennedy: It’s difficult to understands, there is obviously an element of game playing by both sides in these negotiations. The government in Dublin really is concerned and Nationalists in Northern Ireland are concerned about the possibility of considerable restrictions on trade and movement across the Irish border or at least potential friction.

It’s hard to see how a frictionless border can come about, that would satisfy Dublin particularly but also the EU unless the whole island is within a customs union.

The views and opinions expressed by Liam Kennedy do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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