07:50 GMT18 February 2020
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    The European Union should get ready for a worst-case scenario where no deal is concluded between the EU and the UK regarding the customs status of Northern Ireland.

    The EU needs to be realistic about the possible outcome of a UK-EU deal regarding the customs status of Northern Ireland, and deploy various instruments to support the Republic of Ireland from possible economic shock, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday.

    "We will use all the tools at our disposal, which could have a cushioning impact. The new long-term budget for our union from 2021 onwards has built-in flexibility that could allow us to redirect funds if the situation arose," Juncker told Irish MPs and senators in a joint session of parliament in Dublin, The Guardian reports.

    "With pragmatism comes realism. As the clock to Brexit ticks down, we must prepare for every eventuality, including no deal. This is neither a desired nor a likely outcome. But it is not an impossible one. And we are getting ready just in case," he added.

    On top of the budgetary cushion, he also mentioned a €120m peace program which "has done so much in breaking down barriers between communities in Northern Ireland and the border counties."

    Juncker reportedly tasked Martin Selmayr, the commission secretary-general, to outline measures that would be necessary in case of a no-deal scenario. Selmayr came up with several legislative changes that would be necessary if the UK comes up with no deal on Ireland. One of them, for example, mention an unlikely possibility of UK citizens needing to apply for visas to travel to other EU countries.

    In case of a no-deal scenario, a solid de-facto border will be raised between Ireland and Northern Ireland, hitting Dublin trade hard. Despite that, this will also void the so-called Good Friday Agreement of 1990, which ended the long-standing conflict on the island of Ireland, and which regulates a whole number of issues concerning relations between the UK, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

    READ MORE: No Brexit Deal if UK Doesn't Follow Through on Border Commitments — Dublin

    The UK is opposed to Northern Ireland remaining within the EU, which would effectively cut a part of the UK into a separate nation and create a sea border between the islands. Even if Northern Ireland only remains in the customs union, there will be customs control between Northern Ireland and the UK.

    The EU, on the other hand, is wary that the UK will use Northern Ireland as a backdoor to the European Market despite being out of the Union on all other accounts.

    Both sides have expressed a wish to keep the border between the two Irelands as transparent as possible, but have failed to come up with any mutual agreement. London proposed that, in order to avoid the hard border, the UK as a whole stays in the customs union for a limited period after Brexit, until a better solution emerges — something that, as mentioned above, the EU is opposed to.

    deal, customs, border, trade, EU, Jean-Claude Juncker, Theresa May, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
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