The European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced on December 8 that “sufficient progress” had been made on the first phase of Brexit talks, during a press conference with Theresa May in Brussels.
The report from the negotiators on progress made during phase 1 outlines common understanding on the issues of citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and the Brexit divorce bill
After a week of negotiations and agreements focusing on the issue of the Irish-UK border, May stated at the conference that there would be “no hard border” between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, either on land or in the Irish Sea.
In what will be a much analysed part of the report, paragraph 49 states that in the absence of agreed solutions which prevent a hard border, “the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all island economy and the protection of the 1998 agreement.”
The Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney responded to the press conference by tweeting: “Ireland supports Brexit negotiations moving to phase 2 now that we have secured assurances for all on the island of Ireland – fully protecting GFA, peace process, all-island economy and ensuring that there can be no hard border on the island of Ireland post Brexit.”
The Democratic Unionist Party had earlier in the week refused to sign on to a previous deal which they feared isolated Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, and was a step towards a united Ireland.
DUP leader Arlene Foster had said ahead of the press conference that she had received assurances from May that there would be “no red line in the Irish Sea” after winning “six substantive changes” to the earlier proposed text regarding the border. In a statement, she welcomed the provision for UK-wide regulatory alignment, but outlined concerns about what form that regulatory alignment could take. Credit: European Commission via Storyful