Separate Anglo-Irish trade deal a "pipe dream"

Separate Anglo-Irish trade deal a “pipe dream”

Ireland gets a hearing among most European states on maintaining the Common Travel Area with Britain, but any talk of a separate trade deal is dismissed as a pipe dream, the Irish Times writes.

Officials in Foreign Affairs operate with two highly secret lists: one of EU members which show sympathy and understanding for the ‘unique circumstances’ of Anglo-Irish relations and another list of the less understanding. Reading between the lines it is clear that the second group consists of some of the more recent entrants to the Union.

Uniqueness starts with the outcome of the peace process, where the government is on solid ground with the blessing of chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier. Given the intricacies of the Good Friday Agreement on areas like the right to Irish identity and citizenship, there might seem to be a simple read-across to maintenance of the Common Travel Area. However, here the response across the EU is “largely but not uniformly positive”, say officials, even though Barnier has said it will be an early priority in negotiations.

Trade is a very different matter. From an Irish perspective any sort of border checks for any reason has potential implications for the peace process. The Irish objective is that the border in all its aspects, including customs checks, should be low-profile: words like ‘soft’, ‘unobtrusive’ and even ‘invisible’ get used. According to the Irish Time there is some speculation about local arrangements for agricultural products which cross the border several times, but such thinking is not getting traction. “The idea that Ireland has a unique position on trade is not really being entertained,” it quotes a senior source as saying.

The article effectively rubbishes suggestions that the government is inactive on Brexit, citing the rounds of meetings and steady official contacts with all EU members, not to mention particularly close contacts with British counterparts. The purpose is to ‘explore the issues’ and officials stress that they are not negotiating anything. Just as well considering EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici pointed out in Dublin last week that there must be no negotiations of any kind before Article 50 is invoked.