My officials and I remain in close contact with the European Commission and Taskforce members on Brexit matters. Last Friday, I met with Michel Barnier to take stock of developments. He reiterated the EUs strong commitment to ensuring a fully operational solution in the Withdrawal Agreement that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland and protects the all-island economy and the integrity of the Single Market.
Ireland, and our EU partners, stand by the Withdrawal Agreement, which remains the best way to ensure an orderly UK withdrawal. However, we also remain open to examining any workable and legally operative proposals that provide the same operational and legal protections as the backstop.
As part of their ongoing discussions with the Taskforce, the UK has provided four technical non-papers, as concepts for alternative arrangements to the backstop. These cover elements of an all-island SPS zone, as well as customs, and manufactured goods. These non-papers do not constitute formal proposals from the UK, and do not amount to legally operational solutions.
As the Taoiseach stated after his recent meeting with Prime Minister Johnson in New York, there remains a significant gap between what the UK is putting forward, and what Ireland and the EU can accept. Neither Ireland nor the EU can move away from an agreed negotiated position to an unknown and untested solution. It is the UK’s responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement.