The Government is reportedly considering pushing for guarantees that no border will be reimposed on the island of Ireland as the price for allowing Brexit talks to move ahead.
Citing three people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named, Bloomberg reports that authorities here are keen to use their leverage in the first part of the negotiations to extract maximum concessions on the border issue.
That could mean turning UK and European Union aspirations to avoid a hard border into a concrete commitment, the people said.
No final decision on the Government’s strategy has been made, they said.
One of the considerations being mulled is whether to seek to have such a commitment inserted into a summit declaration or if a verbal pledge would be sufficient, according to the people.
The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment.
The border is one of three key issues that have been identified, along with citizens’ rights and money owed by the UK, that require "sufficient progress" toward a resolution before the EU will allow talks to move on to Britain’s future trade relationship with the bloc.
The UK has yet to be convinced of the need for the type of language the Irish are seeking, which would reflect the unique circumstances Northern Ireland faces following Brexit, the people said.
Such wording would effectively commit the UK and the EU to the idea of a bespoke deal for Northern Ireland, should the two sides fail to reach the type of a free-trade accord that would eliminate the need for a border.
The UK has said it wants to leave the single market and customs union, which make a borderless Ireland possible now, but it wants as frictionless a frontier as possible.
It has said it does not want to go back to the borders of the past, when military checkpoints marked the frontier.
After the UK leaves the union, Ireland’s 500km border will form the EU’s land border with Britain.