Commission President vows to prevent Border
The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker was also in Ireland where he addressed a joint sitting of the Dáil and the Seanad and categorically declared that the EU – and 26 other member states not including the UK – would insist that Brexit cannot jeopardise progress on the border with Northern Ireland.
“We have Ireland backed by 26 member states and by the Commission – this will not change.I am strongly against any temptation to try to isolate Ireland and not to conclude a deal on Ireland. Ireland has to be part of the deal.
“Ireland will come first. There are those that think the other 26 countries will abandon Ireland for a deal that suits them (but) Ireland’s border is Europe’s border and it is our priority.”
Mr Juncker warned that “the hardest part” of the Brexit agreement was “still to come”.
“There is not much time to find a concrete agreement. We agree that there should be no return to a hard border, we need to preserve north south institutions, and the Good Friday Agreement should be preserved in its entirety”.
He told the Dáil that there is no deal as good as membership of the EU what claims are made by Brexiteers in the UK.
“It simply does not exist,” he said. He cautioned, therefore, that it would be prudent to prepare for the UK crashing out without a deal. Mr Juncker said that the Irish border has been “out of sight for 20 years and that is how it must stay”.
“That is why we have put forward clear proposals including a backstop agreement”. He said a bespoke and tailored solution cannot fit the whole of the United Kingdom, and while the UK’s proposals for a temporary customs arrangement show a willingness to make progress, they do not show how regulatory alignment would work”.
“We have less than ten months to Brexit, we need more answers and fewer new questions,” he added.
At one point in the Oireachtas session People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett asked Mr Juncker for a clear commitment that there would be no return to a hard border telling him that that: “We don’t trust the Tories , Can we trust you?”
Mr Junker said simply “Yes” and was met with huge applause from TDs and Senators.