Irish Prime Minister: Brexit undermines peace agreements in Northern Ireland

Irish Prime Minister: Brexit undermines peace agreements in Northern Ireland

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Saturday undermined the hard-won Northern Irish peace by creating tensions between Catholic and Protestant communities, even as hope for a solution to the Irish border problem blocking the negotiations is awakened.

"Brexit has undermined the Good Friday Agreement – the 1998 peace agreement that ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland -" and relations between Britain and Ireland are frayed, "Varadkar said.

"Anything that spreads the two communities in Northern Ireland undermines the Good Friday Agreement, and everything that pulls Britain and Ireland apart undermines that relationship," he told the Irish RTE Radio.

Negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union over Britain's exit from the bloc have stalled because of the border between Britain's EU Member Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Both sides agree that there should be no customs or other obstacles that could disrupt businesses and residents or undermine the peace of Northern Ireland. However, they do not agree on how to guarantee that – and Britain is due to leave the block on March 29th.

The impasse on the border has fueled fears that the UK could topple out of the EU without an agreement on divorce and future relations, resulting in havoc in ports and economic turmoil.

The EU has proposed to keep Northern Ireland within a customs union with the bloc to eliminate the need for border controls on the island.

But the British Conservative government and its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, will not accept this as it would involve customs and regulatory controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Instead, Britain wants to keep the entire UK in an EU customs union, but only temporarily.

Although there was no outward sign of a Brexit breakthrough, Irish and British officials say they are increasingly optimistic that a solution can be found.

After meeting Irish Vice-Premier Simon Coveney in Dublin, UK Deputy Prime Minister Theresa May, David Lidington, said the negotiators were "very close" to an agreement.

Coveney agreed that there had been "a lot of progress".

"I think it's possible to get a deal in November," he said.

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