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

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.”


US coronavirus death toll tops 100,000

Updated 28 May 2020

US coronavirus death toll tops 100,000

  • Nearly 1.7 million infections have been tallied nationwide

WASHINGTON:: The United States has now recorded more than 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths, Johns Hopkins University reported Wednesday — a somber milestone and by far the highest total in the world.
The country reported its first death about three months ago. Since then, nearly 1.7 million infections have been tallied nationwide, according to the Baltimore-based school.
The actual number of deaths and infections is believed to be higher, experts say.
In the last 24 hours, the death toll was on the rise once again, with 1,401 deaths added, after three straight days of tolls under 700. The full death toll stood at 100,396.
The state of New York has seen nearly a third of all coronavirus-related deaths in the United States, where President Donald Trump ordered that flags fly at half-staff last weekend to honor the victims.
The first US virus death was reported on February 26, though officials now say they believe that others may have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, before that.
The country passed the 50,000-death threshold barely more than a month ago.
The number of deaths per capita in the United States is nevertheless lower than in several European countries, including Britain, Belgium, France, Italy and Spain.
Despite the grim toll, most US states are now moving toward ending the strict stay-at-home measures that were implemented to curb the spread of the virus.
President Donald Trump, who is running for reelection in November, is eager to stem the economic pain of the lockdown, which has left tens of millions of Americans without jobs.