BRUSSELS – The European commissioner for agriculture said on Wednesday he was encouraged to see an increased Brexit divorce bill sum offered by the United Kingdom and urged for progress to be made securing a frictionless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Concluding a press conference in Brussels, Phil Hogan, who himself is Irish, said he expected some clarification on how to preserve the soft border between the Republic of Ireland and the six counties that make up Northern Ireland, a UK territory, within the coming days after a flurry of rumors in British media suggested Downing Street had notched up its financial settlement to the EU to an estimated 60 billion euros ($71 billion).
“I would welcome very much the fact that the United Kingdom has brought forward proposals that go very close towards the meeting requirements of the EU27 member states, of which Ireland is a member, in order to reach agreement on the first part of the agenda,” he told reporters.
The EU has said that without sufficient progress on the divorce bill, citizens’ rights and avoiding a hard border in Ireland, they won’t start working on a future trade deal with Britain.
He defended Ireland’s position with regards to the ongoing Brexit negotiations and praised the current prime minister, Leo Varadkar, for conveying to the UK the need to retain the soft border with Northern Ireland and preserve the Good Friday Agreement.
The open frontier between the regions not only plays an important role in cross-border trade and business but represents an important part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (officially the Belfast Agreement) peace deal that laid to rest decades of conflict between warring communities in Northern Ireland.