Border Issue Could Spur U.K. Rethink of EU Plan, Ireland Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Irish border issue could force the U.K. to come up with a new plan for its future relationship with the European Union, Ireland’s deputy prime minister said.

Avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic after Brexit “is of course about solving the Irish problem, but is also a mechanism to require the British negotiating team to think about alternative proposals that could potentially apply to the EU’s relationship with the U.K. as a whole,” Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said in a speech in Stockholm Monday.

Those proposals could be “some future arrangement that can allow the U.K. to be part of the same customs union as the rest of” the EU, he said. “The bottom line is can we find a way of ensuring that there is no need for customs checks. If we can that would be very good news for Ireland, but also for Sweden and everybody else.”

How to manage the frontier on the island of Ireland remains the most vexing issue in the Brexit negotiations. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out staying in a customs union, with many Conservative lawmakers demanding that Britain make a clean break with the EU. But ministers have yet to come up with a backstop plan for keeping the border open if there is no trade deal with the EU.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.