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