File photo dated 02/07/16 of a European Union flag in front of the Elizabeth Tower. Theresa May is taking an upbeat stance on securing a Brexit deal, as Ireland insists the UK must stick to its commitments on keeping a soft border with the Republic. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday December 11, 2017. The Prime Minister is using an address to the Commons on Monday to stress that while a new air of optimism on a final settlement has emerged, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

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UK commitment to soft Irish border more than legally enforceable, says Davis

Britain's commitment to maintaining a soft Irish border after Brexit is "much more than legally enforceable", David Davis has said.

The Brexit Secretary said the UK would seek to maintain a "frictionless, invisible" border between Northern Ireland and the Republic even if Friday's last-minute agreement to allow trade talks to start collapses in the event of a "no deal" Brexit.

His comment on Sunday that the plans were a "statement of intent" was branded "bizarre" by the Irish government, which insisted an agreement that the UK will have "full alignment" with the EU on issues that impact on Northern Ireland was "binding".

But Mr Davis claimed his words had been "completely twisted".

He told LBC Radio: "What I actually said yesterday in terms was we want to protect the peace process, want to protect Ireland from the impact of Brexit for them, and I said this was a statement of intent which was much more than just legally enforceable.

"Of course it's legally enforceable under the withdrawal agreement but even if that didn't happen for some reason, if something went wrong, we would still be seeking to provide a frictionless invisible border with Ireland."

Mr Davis went on: “What we’re saying is this bit of it, the bit about the full alignment argument on the issues which affect the peace process in the Belfast Agreement, we would look to that anyway because one of our absolute underpinning aims is to ensure that Ireland and particularly the Northern Ireland peace process is not harmed.

“And what’s most symbolic in that is the absence of a hard border, the absence of border posts and that sort of thing.

“And we are quite certain we can do that by technical and other means even if we end up without a deal with the European Union.”

Asked why he said the soft Irish border deal was a statement of intent, Mr Davis replied: “Because it’s more than legally enforceable.

“In the event that the withdrawal agreement doesn’t happen then we would still be seeking to maintain an invisible border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, that was the point. I was making the point it was much more than just in the treaty, it’s what we want to do anyway.”


Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

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