TheEuropean Union could use aviation as leverage against the U.K. if there was a danger that Brexit may lead to the return of a hard border in Ireland, U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney said Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney had raised that prospect in a conversation about how the bloc might react should talks break down and the U.K.’s internal markets bill, which threatens elements of the deal to keep the Irish border invisible, remain on the table.
“I don’t know, but what I took away from the meeting was that British Airways continues to want to fly from London to the continent, and that if Europeans got really really upset, they can make they can makeBA’s life very difficult,” Mulvaney said at an webinar organized by a Dublin-based think-tank on Thursday.
However, after earlier declining to comment, a spokesman for Coveney said the minister and Mulvaney had had a “wide-ranging discussion which included EU and U.K. interdependence beyond and despite Brexit. It was in that context that aviation was discussed and not as a threat.”
The internal markets bill “was discussed and as a move that had complicated ongoing talks on a new trade deal,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement. “The minister made it clear that the Withdrawal Agreement was legally binding and prevents a hard border in all circumstances.”
The EU and U.K.’s top Brexit negotiators warned this week of big disagreements between the two sides after 14 days of intense, round-the-clock discussions failed to yield a breakthrough. The two sides will begin their final round of scheduled talks over their future trade and security relationship in London next week after deliberations broke up on Wednesday without an agreement in sight.
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