December 6, 2017 / 6:13 PM / 10 days ago

Ireland open to adding to border text but clock ticking

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland is open to adding to a tentative Irish border agreement that collapsed on Monday but movement will be needed by the end of the week if Brexit talks are to move onto the next phase this year, the country’s European Affairs Minister said on Wednesday.

A deal on the border, which is required if negotiations are to progress to trade talks, was agreed on Monday with Dublin’s blessing after Brexit negotiators guaranteed “regulatory alignment” on both sides of the border that Ireland shares with the British province of Northern Ireland.

While the Northern Irish party propping up the British government rejected the deal, Dublin insists it will not accept any change to the substance of the agreement ahead of a meeting of EU leaders on Dec. 15 to decide whether to open trade talks.

“The text that has been agreed, we feel it’s appropriate, it’s workable, there is compromise on both sides and addresses our concerns of upholding what we’ve all been asking for, that there would be no return to a hard border,” Helen McEntee told Reuters in an interview.

“If there is clarification needed on the text, if there is possibly additional wording that would clarify what’s already in the text that would be agreeable to us... I wouldn’t see how that would be a problem.”

Ireland's European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee speaks during an interview with Reuters at Government Buildings in Dublin, Ireland, December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has said it cannot allow any divergence in regulation between Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom. Dublin is waiting for the British government to come back to the EU’s negotiating team with any suggestions or a request for further clarity, McEntee said.

EU diplomats and officials say Britain must deliver its Brexit divorce package offer this week and McEntee added that if it’s felt by Monday that a deal is not going to happen, then she would expect chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to inform the General Affairs Council of EU ministers of that a day later.

Slideshow (4 Images)

However, she said the huge amount of work officials put in last weekend to bring the sides to the brink of a deal on Monday showed how much progress can be made in a few short days.

“Realistically you would want things to be moving by the end of the week and there to be some sort of agreement coming into the general affairs council,” she said.

“I think the fact that it was agreed shows most people were happy with that and I think it’s just to move from there and I would be hopeful that we would be able to reach that agreement by next week.”

Editing by Toby Chopra

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