Britain to press for customs Border with Republic
Position paper to focus on making Border as ‘seamless and frictionless as possible’
The British chancellor Philip Hammond, left, and the international trade secretary Liam Fox have jointly stated that Brexit would mean the UK pulling out of both the EU single market and the customs union. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
The British government is this week expected to confirm that a customs Border between the North and the South is part of its proposals to leave the European Union.
On Wednesday, the British government will publish a position paper on Brexit which, according to London and DUP sources, will call for the creation of a “light touch” Border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
While politicians in both Dublin and Belfast have warned against Brexit leading to a hard Border between the North and South, the position paper nonetheless is expected to state that a customs Border will be required after the UK exits the EU.
The paper, however, according to sources, will seek to mitigate the impact of the Border by majoring on efforts to make the Border as “seamless and frictionless as possible”.
This is expected to include proposals to have an “electronic border” where possible, to have spot checks of vehicles, to avail of number plate recognition technology and to also use CCTV cameras to try to monitor the movement of goods across the Border.
A senior London source said work was continuing on the document which was due to be finalised today. He was unable to state whether the completed paper would be specific on the possible need for customs post on both sides of the Border after Brexit.
It is expected, however, that the paper will also state the ultimate shape and style of the Border will depend on the final agreement the UK works out with Brussels on trade and other matters. “There will be a lot more meat on the bone, there will be a lot more detail in the paper,” said the source. “It’s a position paper; it is not the final negotiating document.”
The position paper, according to sources, will also propose a Schengen Zone-style agreement to ensure free movement of Irish citizens in and out of Britain.
This would be viewed as a reiteration of the current arrangement, the Common Travel Area, which already allows such freedom of movement.
A senior DUP source said the party had no hand in drafting this position paper but that it was being regularly briefed by the British government on its Brexit plans for Northern Ireland. The DUP has a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Tories to keep the Theresa May-led British government in place.
Although Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has proposed that Britain enter a customs union with the EU and rejoins the European Free Trade Association – which would effectively mean remaining in the customs union and single market – senior Government figures are largely resigned to a so-called “hard Brexit”.
Yesterday, British chancellor Philip Hammond and international trade secretary Liam Fox came together to jointly state that Brexit would mean the UK pulling out of both the EU single market and the customs union.
A Government spokesman said: “We look forward to any clarity or ideas being advanced by the British government.
“The Taoiseach has stated clearly that we don’t want a return to an economic Border and has also tabled ideas recently in Belfast on managing the economic challenges posed by Brexit.”