Bri­tain could have a ‘vir­tual bor­der’ with Ire­land, say min­is­ters

Daily Mail - - News - By Ex­ec­u­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

A LARGELY ‘vir­tual bor­der’ could be put in place be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic af­ter Brexit, gov­ern­ment pa­pers will sug­gest this week.

CCTV cam­eras, au­to­matic num­ber plate record­ings and lim­ited cus­toms spot checks are among ways in which min­is­ters want to mit­i­gate Brexit’s im­pact on the prov­ince.

They have been ex­am­in­ing the US-Canada bor­der which uses elec­tronic track­ing to al­low free move­ment of goods.

The is­sue is among the most chal­leng­ing be­ing nav­i­gated by min­is­ters dur­ing early Brexit talks. The Gov­ern­ment’s for­mal po­si­tion will be set out this week.

A pa­per on the is­sue will be pub­lished on Wed­nes­day, fol­low­ing a pa­per to­mor­row on post-Brexit cus­toms ar­range­ments.

Fur­ther pa­pers in­clud­ing on agri­cul­ture and fish­eries will be pub­lished next week. Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis will re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble in Brus­sels next week. Min­is­ters are keen to make progress on Ire­land, the Brexit di­vorce deal and rights of EU cit­i­zens so they can be­gin trade talks.

Last night it was con­firmed that Ir­ish na­tion­als will con­tinue to en­joy free move­ment into and out of Bri­tain af­ter we leave the EU. Min­is­ters, who have said they do not want to re­turn to the ‘borders of the past’, will pledge to pro­tect the Com­mon Travel Area, an ar­range­ment be­tween the UK and Ire­land which pre­dates ei­ther coun­try join­ing the EU.

In her Lan­caster House speech in Jan­uary, Theresa May said she wanted a ‘prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion’ to borders that main­tains the Com­mon Travel Area with the Repub­lic.

The is­sue is com­pli­cated by cus­toms ar­range­ments. When the UK is out­side the EU cus­toms union there will need to be some checks on goods cross­ing the bor­der – al­though these could be mainly elec­tronic with some phys­i­cal spot checks.

Ear­lier this month Ir­ish pre­mier Leo Varad­kar sug­gested he could veto the start of trade talks in Oc­to­ber un­less UK min­is­ters agree to main­tain a ‘soft bor­der’ be­tween the North and South.

He said he had seen no ev­i­dence that tech­nol­ogy could solve the prob­lem of keep­ing goods and traf­fic flow­ing across a bor­der with 200 cross­ing points which is used by 177,000 lor­ries a month, 208,000 vans and 1.85mil­lion cars.

He wants the EU to create a unique EU- UK cus­toms union that would al­low the North­ern Ire­land bor­der to con­tinue as it is.

Every year an es­ti­mated 20,000 peo­ple come to work on the Bri­tish main­land from the Ir­ish Repub­lic.

The ar­range­ment for Ir­ish na­tion­als will repli­cate the Com­mon Travel Area and mean Ir­ish na­tion­als be­ing treated dif­fer­ently to other EU na­tion­als.

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