Taoiseach: Brexit deal only way to avoid a hard border

Britain's Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther Mc Vey arrives in Downing Steet London Britain

"While by no means flawless, it provides a platform to move onto the critical next stage of a comprehensive future trade deal", said a joint statement from the Confederation of British Industry Northern Ireland, Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Directors and Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.

He said if it looked as though Britain were heading towards a no-deal departure from the European Union then direct discussions on how to avoid a hard border would be required.

An open border is one of the main principles of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.

He said the draft agreement had fully spelt out the "backstop" arrangement that would apply in Ireland if a wider EU-UK trade deal fails to materialise.

"Also the United Kingdom having left the European Union would seek to join the World Trade Organisation".

"Obviously if it's defeated in Westminster, it's hard to know where we go from there, as others have said it's maybe hard Brexit or no hard Brexit at all, but that's a decision for the UK Parliament to make".

In addition, he emphasized that it was senseless to entertain goodwill keeping the border open.

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May has faced widespread disapproval of the withdrawal deal unveiled this week both from within her Conservative party and from the 10 MPs from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who prop up her minority government.

He said he would not speculate on how that could be achieved.

He added: "We must be clear on the fact that a no-deal outcome would be disastrous for Northern Ireland, particularly for the agri-food sector".

"They would have to implement WTO rules so those hard Brexiteers who say that somehow just through political will you can avoid a hard border that doesn't make sense". "Surely we have learned lessons from the past", Coveney told reporters at his Fine Gael party's annual conference.

Northern Irish business groups lined up to back Prime Minister Theresa May's draft Brexit agreement on Friday and put pressure on her allies from the British province to drop their staunch opposition to the plan.

"If you start trying to amend it or unthink it you might find that the whole thing unravels".

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