No hard border on Ireland, says Brexit minister

David Davis to visit Dublin on EU tour to help formulate bespoke negotiating position

The Common Travel Area will remain after Britain leaves the European Union and there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland, the British minister responsible for Brexit has told MPs. David Davis gave the assurances during two hours of questions in the House of Commons about how Britain will negotiate its departure from the EU.

Mr Davis said he would visit Dublin later this week at the start of a tour of EU capitals as the Conservative government formulates its negotiating position ahead of formal exit talks. He offered few details about the government's preferred post-Brexit relationship with the EU, but said Britain would need a bespoke deal distinct from those enjoyed by other non-EU countries such as Norway and Switzerland.

"We will decide on our borders, our laws, and taxpayers' money. It means getting the best deal for Britain – one that is unique to Britain and not an 'off the shelf' solution. This must mean controls on the numbers of people who come to Britain from Europe – but also a positive outcome for those who wish to trade in goods and services," he said.

Points-based immigration

Earlier, prime minister Theresa May dismissed the idea of an Australian-style, points-based immigration system, which the Leave campaign proposed during the referendum campaign. And she appeared to hold open the prospect of preferential access for EU citizens as an alternative to the free movement of people.


Ms May said that Britain voted in the referendum to impose “some control” over immigration from the EU but insisted that the Australian system was not the answer.

"A points-based system does not give you that control. I want a system where the government is able to decide who comes into the country. I think that's what the British people want," she told reporters after a G-20 meeting in China.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage accused the prime minister of backsliding on immigration, pointing out that the points-based system had become a central campaigning issue in the final weeks of the referendum campaign.

“The people were clear in wanting a points-based immigration system which is why so many went out and voted to Leave the European Union. Any watering down from that will lead to real anger. Given that myself and others also campaigned for a migration system that would treat all who wanted to come equally, any preference for EU nationals would be totally unacceptable,” he said.

Mr Davis, who was flanked in the Commons by fellow Leave campaigners Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, defended the prime minister's position, adding that an alternative to the points-based system could be tougher. He rejected the suggestion that there was a trade-off between controlling immigration and access to the European single market but said Britain could trade successfully with the EU without being part of the single market.

Trade warning

Ms May has made clear that she will not invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts two years of exit negotiations, until next year. And Mr Davis said that, before taking that step, his officials would carry out a sectoral and regulatory analysis, which will identify the key factors for British businesses and the labour force that will affect negotiations with the EU.

“We are building a detailed understanding of how withdrawing from the EU will affect our domestic policies, to seize the opportunities and ensure a smooth process of exit,” he said.

Japan's ambassador to London warned on Monday that Japanese companies could leave the UK if they are unable to trade with the EU on the favourable terms they enjoy today. Koji Tsuruoka said that the hundreds of Japanese companies operating in the UK wanted to remain there but they would have to respond to any change in circumstances after Brexit.

“They are companies responsible to their stakeholders and their duty is to produce profit. If the way Brexit ends up does not provide companies with a prospect of making sufficient profit to continue operating in the UK, of course there is no option that they can’t choose. All options are open to them,” he told the BBC.

Mr Tsuruoka’s warning came after his government issued a 15-page list of demands aimed at protecting Japanese car manufacturers and financial institutions in Britain after Brexit.