“It is rather difficult to argue for whether or not a solution is viable when we don't know what it is they want,” said Sweden's minister for EU and trade on her way to Monday's meeting in Brussels.
The European Union has urged Britain to agree on a resolution for the Irish border – a major point of contention in Brexit negotiations – by a summit with EU heads of government on June 28th-29th.
But it has proven difficult to reconcile Britain's conundrum: its commitment to avoid a so-called hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland without entering into a customs union with the rest of the union post-Brexit. And Monday's meeting did not seem to move the issue forward.
“Barnier (the EU's chief Brexit negotiator) was more pessimistic than I have ever heard him be. Neither of the two proposals – which the British government is now split on – is realistic. We need something more real,” Linde was quoted by the TT newswire as saying after the meeting.
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Linde is set to visit Ireland this week for talks with Trade Minister Heather Humphreys and EU Minister Helen McEntee, and Northern Ireland for meetings with the DUP and Sinn Féin.
“I wish above anything that we get a concrete proposal. What I hope to see is that there will not be a hard border because then you would not honour the Good Friday Agreement,” she said.
She was sceptical about UK Prime Minister Theresa May's idea to use smart border technology to enable an open border between the EU and the UK even if the latter leaves the customs union.
“I don't think that works. We have seen on the Norway-Sweden border that we still need all customs administrative measures despite us having a very well-functioning border,” she said.