Liam Fox has said that a final decision on the Northern Irish border can only be made when a UK-EU trade deal has been made.
The UK’s international trade secretary told Sky News that talks regarding the Irish border could not yet be made and blames the EU for Brexit delays.
“We don’t want there to be a hard border but the UK is going to be leaving the customs union and the single market,” he said.
“We can’t come to a final answer to the Irish question until we get an idea of the end state. And until we get into discussions with the EU on the end state that will be very difficult – so the quicker we can do that the better, and we are still in a position where the EU doesn’t want to do that.”
The Irish Prime Minister has said that he wants a written guarantee from the UK government that no hard border will be in place.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he was “worried” by Fox’s comments.
Theresa May has until 4 December to finalise further Brexit proposals including the border, the Brexit divorce bill and citizens’ rights.
Fox made clear that future trading between the UK and Ireland needed to be clarified, but the UK would always have special agreements for the state.
“We have always had exceptions for Ireland. Whether it’s in our voting rights, our rights of residence in the UK, we have always accepted a certain asymmetry and that will have to be part of whatever agreement we come to with the European Union,” he said.
“And until we get into discussions with the EU on the end state that will be very difficult, so the quicker we can do that the better, and we are still in a position where the EU doesn’t want to do that.”