British Irish chamber calls for new UK-EU customs arrangement

Arrangement would eliminate the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland, it says

The British Irish Chamber of Commerce has published a framework for how trade between the UK, Ireland and the EU might operate after Brexit in a bid to unlock the current impasse over the Irish Border.

The business body wants to see the establishment of a new “customs arrangement” between the UK and the EU that would eliminate the need for a border on the island of Ireland while addressing concerns about border and customs checks at UK ports.

The chamber said such a deal would best serve the interests of those trading in the UK, Ireland and the EU, while limiting the number of compromises required from the British government or the EU.

The Irish Border remains a key stumbling block in the Brexit negotiations, with Dublin believing the only way a hard border can be avoided is by keeping Northern Ireland within the single market and the customs union, a possibility the British government has so far ruled out.


Big principles

The chamber published what it described as the “big principles” that should underpin the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

It wants to see a trade relationship that is effectively borderless and free from tariff and nontariff barriers.

The deal would also involve an alignment of the UK’s tariffs with the EU’s established Common External Tariff as well as continued regulatory alignment.

Other core principles would include a solution to the Border issue here; the pursuit of new global trade deals that are mutually beneficial; and the ability for the UK to set its own migration policy.

The chamber said its document follows extensive consultations with stakeholders and, although politically ambitious, was technically achievable.

Director-general John McGrane said: “These ‘big principles’ are being put forward as a positive contribution to the debate on the future of the EU-UK trading relationship.”

“Both parties in the negotiations have spoken of their desire to find a deal that protects the open Border on the island of Ireland, and this paper offers a possible solution to this challenge,” he said.

“It also seeks to ensure that UK-Irish trade is not unduly undermined by the Brexit process but rather encouraged to grow after we get through this difficult phase,” he added.

The chamber’s intervention comes at a time of increasing tension between Dublin and London over the future of the Border, which is threatening to halt the Brexit talks from progressing to the next phase.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times