UK has two ways to secure frictionless border post-Brexit, says Brokenshire

Northern secretary: we will negotiate a Brexit that works for everyone

Britain’s Northern secretary James Brokenshire arrives at a   weekly meeting of the British cabinet. File photograph: Tolga Akmentolga/AFP.

Britain’s Northern secretary James Brokenshire arrives at a weekly meeting of the British cabinet. File photograph: Tolga Akmentolga/AFP.


Britain has two proposals on how to secure a frictionless Irish border between the UK and the European Union after Brexit, Northern secretary James Brokenshire said on Sunday.

Speaking after a week that saw the issue of the post-Brexit border nearly collapse talks between Britain and the EU, Mr Brokenshire said a new customs partnership or a “highly streamlined approach” to customs were on the table.

A deal reached by European Union and British negotiating teams on Friday set out guarantees that there would be no “hard border” between the Republic and Northern Ireland when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019. Ireland secured a commitment that there will be no hard border, even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. A previous agreement had been reached on Monday, guaranteeing “regulatory alignment” between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This deal broke down following opposition from the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up the Tory government led by British prime minister Theresa May.

Mr Brokenshire told Sky News on Sunday: “We set out two proposals in relation to how we would deal with the issue of tariffs, how we would deal with those sorts of elements in relation to customs whether that be a new customs partnership where we would effectively apply a similar or the same tariff that the EU currently applies to goods coming into the EU, or a highly streamlined approach with effectively exemptions that would apply for small business”.

Dublin believes it is now possible for the UK to leave the European single market and customs union while maintaining a relationship that closely mirrors the existing structures. It could, however, hinder the UK’s ability to strike its own free trade deals, a key goal of some of those in favour of Brexit.

The document agreed between the EU and the UK reached the threshold of “sufficient progress” in the areas of citizens’ rights, the financial divorce settlement and Irish-specific issues. The negotiations are now expected to advance to the next stage which focuses on the transition period after Brexit takes effect in March 2019, and on the future EU-UK relationship.

Mr Brokenshire said he was “delighted” the European Commission said sufficient progress had been made. He said: “We will protect Northern Ireland’s integral place in the internal market of the UK with full, unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses.

“We will avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and protect the Belfast Agreement.

“We remain determined to negotiate a Brexit that works for everyone, in all parts of the United Kingdom. ”

Meanwhile, Britain’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said on Twitter: “Good that Brexit talks can move on. Need to know political price of compromise. Need to agree transitional arrangements on same terms ASAP.”

European Council president Donald Tusk tweeted that he had sent Brexit guidelines for the second phase to the leaders of all 27 countries in the EU. He added: “While being satisfied with today’s agreement, let’s remember that the most difficult challenge still ahead. Breaking up is hard. But breaking up and building a new relationship is much harder.” - (Reuters, PA)