Irish negotiator says 'challenging' to bring effect to Brexit border agreement

Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

DUBLIN (Reuters) - It will be extremely challenging to give effect to the commitments made by the British government on the future of Northern Ireland’s border, one of Ireland’s lead Brexit negotiators said on Wednesday.

A breakthrough on the status of the Irish border allowed Britain and the European Union to strike a deal in December to pave the way for talks on future trade ties after Britain leaves the bloc in 2019.

In a concession to Dublin, the agreement said that if Britain cannot strike the kind of free trade deal it wishes, Northern Ireland would remain aligned with the rules of the EU’s single market and customs union, both of which May’s government is officially committed to leaving.

But it also includes a clause to appease the Democratic Unionist Party that no new regulatory barriers would develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

“The British government has made a series of very welcome and important commitments. But of course giving effect to those commitments will be extremely challenging,” said Rory Montgomery, Second Secretary General at the Department of Foreign Affairs, in a speech in Dublin.

“One of the key questions ... is to what extent will it be possible for it to enshrine, if you like, the commitments and protections agreed before Christmas. And of course how will this sit with the other set of commitments made by the British government to the DUP and Northern Ireland,” he said.

“That will be a major challenge.”

Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Catherine Evans