Alarms as hopes for 'frictionless' border post-Brexit dismissed

Michel Barnier (2nd left) being shown a cross-border road during a visit to Ireland in May. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

HOPES for a "frictionless" border post-Brexit appeared to be ruled out yesterday by the European Union's chief negotiator.

Michel Barnier warned the British government that it will not be able to continue frictionless trade without the single market.

His comments, which amount to a stark rejection of the negotiating position set out by prime minister Theresa May, sparked renewed fears about the consequences of Brexit for Ireland's border region.

Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd said the comments made it clear that "there will be dire economic consequences".

"The DUP and others can no longer tell businesses and farmers everything will be ok and that they can carry on with trading across the island in the same way they can at present," he said.

Tom Kelly, a key figure in the 'remain' campaign in Northern Ireland, said; "People keep talking about frictionless borders and being creative and imaginative about solutions - the reality is where you have borders you have barriers."

DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr claimed that European leaders "appear set to make the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and UK as difficult as they can".

But he added: "I remain of the view that Barnier's bark will be worse than his bite."

Mr Barnier, who will lead a second wave of negotiations due to start on July 19, said yesterday: "I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and keep all of its benefits. That is not possible.

"I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and build a customs union to achieve frictionless trade. That is not possible.

"The decision to leave the EU has consequences and I have to explain to citizens, businesses and civil society on both sides of the channel what those consequences mean for them.

"These consequences are the direct result of the choice made by the UK, not by the EU."

His comments came as the Irish government's new foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said that Britain's Brexit secretary David Davis had agreed to visit the border region with him to hear the concerns of people.

Mr Coveney said his messages had been "clear and blunt" in terms of Ireland's concerns about Brexit in a meeting with Mr Davis yesterday.

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