British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has warned that a final decision on a hard border with Northern Ireland can only be made after a trade deal between Britain and Brussels is clinched.
He was quoted by The Guardian as saying that "we have always had exceptions for Ireland" but that "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," Fox said.
Last week, the Irish government issued a stern warning to British Prime Minister Theresa May's government, threatening to veto any UK-EU trade agreement that makes a hard border with Northern Ireland a possibility.
On November 17, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar demanded written assurance from London that a hard border was not a possibility as a precondition for UK-EU trade talks to go ahead.
Certainly a hard border in Northern Ireland would be bad news for all of us. But in threatening a veto, Dublin has missed the point that Brexit with no trade deal would be very bad indeed for Eire’s economy.— Roger Helmer (@RogerHelmerMEP) 26 ноября 2017 г.
Sky News cited Fox as saying in response that "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."
In last week's interview with the BBC, Theresa May explicitly denied that a hard border would be imposed after Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019.
At the same time, the British government has repeatedly ruled out any possibility of Northern Ireland remaining in the customs union or having any separate status that lessens Britain's sovereignty over the country.
Also last week, European Council President Donald Tusk admitted "a huge challenge" pertaining to the UK-EU trade talks in December, saying that "we need to see progress from the UK within 10 days on all issues, including on Ireland," according to The Guardian.