Merkel, Irish PM say solution needed for Northern Ireland border issue

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar review the guard of honor at the chancellery in Berlin. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Merkel, Irish PM say solution needed for Northern Ireland border issue

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Tuesday that the Northern Ireland border issue must still be resolved, after a deal was reached on a Brexit transition phase.
“We heard yesterday with great joy that there was a consensus... between the EU and the UK on the transitional phase,” Merkel said two days ahead of a crunch EU summit on ties with post-Brexit Britain.
“But of course we know that there are still a lot of problems to resolve, especially the border issue in Northern Ireland, which is very sensitive and central,” she told a joint press conference in Berlin.
Britain and the EU on Monday reached a landmark deal on the transition phase from March 29, 2019 to December 31, 2020, under which Britain won’t take part in EU decision-making but will keep the benefits of the single market and customs union.
The EU insists that any divorce deal must ensure there is no “hard border” between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, saying it could compromise the 1998 peace accord in the British province.
Under Monday’s deal, Britain agreed to the EU’s “backstop” plan for the status of the Irish border, under which Northern Ireland would remain part of the bloc’s customs union if there is no better idea.
Varadkar said that a hard border “can be avoided and will be avoided” and welcomed the fact that London had now accepted the backstop option.
He said the border issue would hinge on the future EU-UK trading relationship.
“If it is something that is very close to a customs union then I think that would solve a lot of the problems related to the Irish border,” he said.
“But if it is something much less and much weaker than that, then it would not.”
To bring clarity, said Varadkar, “we need more detailed written proposals from the UK government, and written in such a way that they can be made legally binding and work in the context of European law.”


Serbian interior ministry says Lufthansa bomb threat was fake

Updated 34 min 50 sec ago
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Serbian interior ministry says Lufthansa bomb threat was fake

  • The bomb threat was found to be false after checks on board the plane

BELGRADE: The Serbian interior ministry said a bomb threat which prompted the evacuation of a Lufthansa plane bound for Frankfurt on Thursday morning was fake.
Serbian state TV reported that 130 passengers and five crew members had been evacuated after boarding the 6.15 a.m. (0415 GMT) HL 1411 flight, and the plane was taken off the runway. Special police units were deployed to search the plane.
An interior ministry spokesman confirmed to Reuters that the bomb threat was found to be false after checks on board the plane.
“This morning at 6 a.m. an unknown person called and reported there was a bomb on the plane bound for Frankfurt,” a ministry statement had said earlier in the day.
A Lufthansa spokesman confirmed the plane was being checked by authorities.