Wed 16th Aug 2017
Statement from DEXEU.gov.uk: UK pushes for no border posts between Northern Ireland and Ireland
- Series of principles to govern approach to the Northern Ireland border to be set out in new position paper.
- Paper proposes no physical infrastructure at the border, such as border customs posts.
- UK Government wants a time-limited interim period to implement any new customs arrangements, including considerations relating the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Principles for maintaining a seamless and frictionless border between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be laid out in a new UK position paper today (Wednesday) — making clear there will be no return to the hard borders of the past.
The paper states how the UK Government will be pushing to avoid any physical border infrastructure and border posts and between Northern Ireland and Ireland for any purpose following Brexit, in a comprehensive paper outlining the UK’s approach to addressing the unique circumstances for the border.
In the paper on Future customs arrangements the Government set out two broad approaches that the UK could adopt to its future longer term customs arrangements with the EU – a new customs partnership or a highly streamlined customs arrangement.
Under a new customs partnership, where we align our customs approaches, there would be no customs border at all between the UK and Ireland. This would enable the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland to continue to be seamless in relation to customs.
The highly-streamlined customs arrangements could include: a continued waiver on submitting entry/exit declarations; continued membership of the Common Transit Convention to help Northern Ireland and Irish companies transit goods. These arrangements would also need facilitations reflecting the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland, such as new trusted trader arrangements to deliver highly streamlined processes for larger traders and cross-border trade exemption meaning no new customs processes at all for smaller traders. Over 80% of cross-border trade is by SMEs.
The paper will also make clear UK plans to protect the Common Travel Area (CTA) and associated rights for UK and Irish citizens, and uphold the Belfast Agreement in all its parts.
That will mean clear guarantees of no change to the ability to move freely around the CTA that exists now. It calls on the EU to also prioritise these objectives, with the aim of securing swift agreement.
It also dismisses the idea of a customs border in Irish Sea as not constitutionally or economically viable, and seeks a time-limited interim period — linked to implementation arrangements — allowing for a smooth and orderly transition to the new customs system.
The publication follows a wider paper looking at possible models for future customs arrangements [yesterday], which will form the basis for discussions with the EU about the shape of our future partnership with the bloc after we leave.
A UK Government source said:
“Both sides needs to show flexibility and imagination when it comes to the border issue in Northern Ireland and that is exactly what our latest position paper will do.
“As Michel Barnier himself has said, the solution cannot be based on a precedent so we’re looking forward to seeing the EU’s position paper on Ireland.
“But it’s right that as we shape the unprecedented model, we have some very clear principles. Top of our list is to agree upfront no physical border infrastructure — that would mean a return to the border posts of the past and is completely unacceptable to the UK.
“Our paper sets out some creative options on customs and shows the priority we place on making progress on this.
“Protecting trade is vital for the UK and Ireland — in 2015 Northern Ireland sold £10.7bn of goods to Great Britain and a further £2.7bn to Ireland, while last year Great Britain exported £13.6bn worth of goods to Ireland, and imported £9.1bn — so we’re prioritising finding a solution that protects businesses’ ability to access these important markets.”
The UK has the flexibility to design its own arrangements once it leaves the frameworks set in EU law, and would always prioritise the cross-community support in Northern Ireland for a seamless border.
But the paper recognises that any solution needs to be negotiated with the European Union to ensure that the Ireland side of the land border, which will be subject to relevant EU law, can also be as seamless as possible.