In a report published today in the Irish Times newspaper it has been revealed that Britain has made a commitment to guarantee to preserve free movement of all European Union citizens between Ireland and Britain.
Sources told the Irish Times that this is a big step forward in the Irish border question but with further talks not expected until neat year, the stalemate and uncertainty continues for the people of the island of Ireland.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, was quoted yesterday stating that the talks were a “long way” away from real progress. It is hoped, however, that if one of the major stumbling blocks is achieved then the final two big issues of a financial settlement of citizens rights will fall into place.
If it is true that Britain is prepared to make this commitment on the Irish border, then it is indeed a significant step and a welcome one, particularly for the people of Ireland.
It seems that the real problem is the money – not an unusual situation in a divorce settlement, regardless of whether it is between two people, or a country and a union of 27 states.
For the people of Europe the financial settlement is last on the list. The majority of citizens on both sides want to be free to move between Britain and Europe and also have the rights guaranteed in both regions.
If it is the case that this commitment is being agreed, then it could also be a nail in the coffin of the remain campaign. Freedom of movement and a frictionless border between Ireland and Britain along with Westminster agreeing to stay in the customs union would severely damage any remain calls.
Of course, while this author still hopes that Britain will stay, the end result of which would see freedom of movement on the island of Ireland, citizens rights guaranteed and a possible financial reduced settlement as the final outcome would be a favourable outcome.
Nobody wants the mess of locked gates on a border – not even the Brexiteers.