Hopes the Brexit talks would move on to trade have been dashed by Irish demands for the UK to keep EU agriculture rules and allow Northern Ireland to stay in the customs union.
Dublin’s latest push to maintain an open border between the Republic and Northern Ireland was revealed in a European Commission document leaked to The Telegraph.
The demands took British negotiators by surprise, as they thought questions over the border issue were on ice until trade talks began, but Ireland is now pushing for solid guarantees before the EU leaders’ summit next month.
Farming is likely to be the industry most heavily affected by the emergence of a hard Irish border because of the deeply interconnected agri-food supply chains which stretch across the island.
CLA director of external affairs Shane Brennan said: “It is not surprising the Irish are saying this.
“Dealing with the relationship between the UK and Ireland is one of the most difficult issues for EU negotiators and for farmers and agriculture in particular.
“The thing which is so striking is how effective the EU is being in playing hardball in the negotiations with the UK Government.
“But it is crucial now for all parties to get past the positioning and get into talking about how we are going to deliver a trade relationship which genuinely works for farmers across the EU.”
Leaving both the single market and the customs union has been a key plank of the Government’s Brexit strategy, and Ministers published a position paper detailing possible ways Irish trade could remain ‘frictionless and seamless’ despite the move in August.
Shortly after its publication, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said what he saw in the paper ‘worried him’.
“Creativity and flexibility cannot be at the expense of the integrity of the single market and customs union”, he added.
It is not known how the UK Government will marry its aim to have a new domestic agricultural policy in place by March 2019 with Ireland’s demand for Britain to keep EU rules.
A Department for Exiting the EU spokesman told The Telegraph: “We recognise the solutions to the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland must respect the integrity of the EU single market and customs union, but they must also respect the integrity of the United Kingdom.”