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.”


Philippine Congress’ approval of Muslim peace deal delayed

Updated 48 min 40 sec ago
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Philippine Congress’ approval of Muslim peace deal delayed

  • The Senate unanimously ratified on Monday the bill that aims to establish the new Bangsamoro autonomous region
  • Both chambers need to ratify the autonomy bill for it to be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippine House of Representatives has failed to ratify as expected a new autonomy deal that many hope will peacefully settle one of Asia’s longest-raging Muslim separatist rebellions and help prevent a repeat of a disastrous Daesh group-linked attack in the country’s south.
The Senate unanimously ratified on Monday the bill that aims to establish the new Bangsamoro autonomous region but House members adjourned early amid a reported leadership challenge without approving the crucial legislation.
Both chambers need to ratify the autonomy bill for it to be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte, who is expected to highlight the peace deal with the largest Muslim rebel group in his annual state of the nation address before a joint session of Congress later Monday. The rebels didn’t immediately react.