UK to seek Irish help in technological solution to keep Border open

Dublin willing to consider ‘sensible and realistic’ solutions proven effective

Theresa May told the House of Commons that preparatory work on alternative arrangements to avoid implementing a border backstop would begin before Britain leaves the EU. Photograph: Will Oliver/Bloomberg

Britain will seek the co-operation of Irish authorities in exploring technological solutions to keeping the Irish Border open after Brexit if European Union leaders approve a draft deal next Sunday.

Theresa May told the House of Commons yesterday that preparatory work on alternative arrangements to avoid implementing a backstop would begin before Britain leaves the EU next March.

A senior British official said that although no process had been agreed with Dublin “all customs facilitation requires work with the other side of the border so I would anticipate the same being true for these facilitations”.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said that any such co-operation would be part of a commitment in the political declaration between the EU and UK published yesterday. “It commits each side to undertaking preparatory work to make sure that talks can start as quickly as possible once we’ve left the EU.”



The Government has previously said that technological solutions to avoid a hard border had been “judged inadequate or unworkable”.

A spokesman last night said that Dublin “has always said it is willing to consider sensible and realistic solutions that will avoid a hard border, so long as their effectiveness can be proved,” but that this would form part of the negotiations between EU and UK.

"Preventing a hard border in Ireland has always been the Government's priority," the Government spokesman said.

He added that the withdrawal agreement, a legal document, includes the “backstop” option that guarantees there would be no hard border “unless and until something better arises”.

“The Government has made clear that it does not wish to use the backstop and prefers that a deep and new relationship can be negotiated, involving no hard border,” he said.

Security co-operation

The 26-page political declaration promises Britain a wide-ranging free trade agreement with the EU, without tariffs or quotas, and to maintain current levels of internal and external security co-operation.

It speaks of “an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic cooperation, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence and wider areas of co-operation based on a balance of rights and obligations.”

The document has been sent to the 27 EU other capitals and is set to be approved by the bloc’s leaders on Sunday alongside the much weightier and legally binding treaty, the withdrawal agreement.

Mrs May hailed the declaration as “right for the whole of the UK” but the DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson described it as a “non-binding aspirational agreement of convenience”. Mr Wilson said the document was drafted to help Ms May “rather than mitigate the very damaging and dangerous” draft withdrawal deal.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times