British Prime Minister Theresa May will visit Northern Ireland and the border with the Republic today, July 19 and tomorrow, July 20.
During her visit to the North today, May is to visit business owners and farmers along the border to discuss their concerns about the UK leaving the EU.
Tomorrow, May will give a speech in Belfast, and will meet the leaders of the five main parties in Northern Ireland, probably to discuss ways of reestablish negotiations to form a Stormont executive.
It’s been over a year and a half since the Stormont Assembly collapsed and the North was left without a government; since then civil servants have been making decisions for the region and Westminster passed a budget to keep funding for essential services going.
May’s spontaneous visit also comes during a tense time in Brexit talks: the EU is becoming increasingly frustrated with the UK’s public statements on what they want without any detail on how to achieve that.
The British government recently published a White Paper on its exit from the European Union, which has been criticised as a fudge that keeps neither Remainers or Brexiteers happy. The Paper will then be used as a basis for negotiations with the European Union.
The UK has been voting on amendments to its EU Withdrawal Bill and legislation for its proposed customs arrangements with the EU (which Tánaiste Simon Coveney labelled as “unhelpful” yesterday).
By October, it’s currently planned that members of the European Union will vote on the proposed Brexit plan, as will members of the House of Commons. Both parliaments must pass the final deal before it is put into action, and there’s significant doubt over whether that will happen – especially in such a short timeframe.
Although the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has reassured Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that there will be no hard border, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, there are still concerns of what could happen (World Trade Organisation sources said that there would have to be a border in a hard Brexit or no-deal scenario).
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also tried to hammer home the consequences a hard Brexit could have on the UK, "If they want their planes to fly over our skies, they would need to take that into account… You can’t take back your waters and then expect to take back other people’s sky."