The European Commission task force paper on guiding principles for the dialogue on Irish issues reflects our priorities, including the complex issue of the Border. The paper makes it clear that it is the UK's responsibility to propose workable solutions and to take the policy decisions needed to deliver on the shared objective of avoiding a hard border. It is welcome, therefore, that the UK has made a commitment to protect the Good Friday Agreement, maintain the common travel area and avoid any physical infrastructure at the Border. While the EU understands that this commitment is sincere, it must be backed up with workable solutions which take account of the complexities presented by the UK's decision to leave the European Union.
It is essential for the UK to commit to concrete ways that ensure a hard border is avoided. These must include addressing the risks presented by any regulatory divergence from the rules of the EU Internal Market and customs union. Detailed work is ongoing to map out the co-operation on a North-South basis on the island of Ireland on which we rely and which relies on EU laws and policies.
This work has underlined the need to avoid the risks presented by any regulatory divergence from the rules of the EU Single Market and customs union in order that North-South co-operation can continue in a meaningful way.
In Brussels, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland recognised the fact that Northern Ireland needed bespoke solutions and that it had unique circumstances which needed answers. He also confirmed that Britain would be leaving the customs union and that Northern Ireland would not be separated from the rest of Britain in that context. That is all the more reason we need to explore some of the ideas that have come from the British side around customs union partnerships. It would be a lot easier if Britain and Northern Ireland applied the same solution to solve our Border issue but in the absence of that, we have a problem and this will require bespoke and unique solutions for Northern Ireland.