Sinn Féin and DUP to meet Michel Barnier over Northern Ireland border dilemma

Written by Nicholas Mairs on 5 March 2018 in News

The move follows Theresa May’s Mansion House speech on Friday

Irish border - Image credit: Press Association

Senior figures from Sinn Féin and the DUP are to hold separate talks with Michel Barnier this week as the issue of keeping an open border in Ireland after Brexit rumbles on.

A delegation from the nationalist party will meet the EU’s chief negotiator in Brussels today, while their unionist counterparts will hold similar discussions tomorrow.

The move follows Theresa May’s Mansion House speech on Friday in which she repeated that she did not want to see a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic or a customs border between the province and the rest of the UK.

And it comes after the EU's draft legal agreement proposed a "common regulatory area" which would in effect keep Northern Ireland in the customs union – a proposal May said no British prime minister could ever accept.

The Sinn Féin delegation, which includes party president Mary Lou McDonald, leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill and MEPs Martina Anderson and Matt Carthy, have argued the region should be granted special status.

Speaking ahead of the visit, McDonald said: "To remain true to the Good Friday Agreement, the North must be designated special status within the EU including safeguarding the rights of EU citizens and all-Ireland co-operation."

In contrast the DUP has opposed any separate status for Northern Ireland from Great Britain, arguing it would break up the UK.

Nigel Dodds, the party's deputy leader, has said an internal border would be "catastrophic" for Northern Ireland.

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