Britain seeks 'temporary customs union' with EU

Marsha Scott
August 17, 2017

European Union nationals will still be able to cross the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic without facing passport checks under the United Kingdom government's Brexit plans.

The government will today announce that keeping the Northern Irish border free of physical infrastructure is a key priority in post-Brexit trade arrangements with the EU.

People and goods now move freely across the Irish border but there are concerns that, as Britain's only land frontier with the European Union, this can not be sustained after Brexit in March 2019.

Britain will publish its proposals on the Northern Ireland border issue on Wednesday, before the third round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels at the end of the month.

The UK paper proposed a future customs arrangement which would mean the vast majority of businesses - including farmers and small firms - trading across the border remaining exempt from tariffs and food safety checks.

For those concerned about freedom of movement across Northern Ireland and Ireland, our proposal is clear: we want to maintain the reciprocal arrangements for the Common Travel Area and all the rights for our citizens that have existed in some form since 1922.

The idea of effectively establishing a customs border in the Irish Sea was also rejected for being "not constitutionally or economically viable".

"As Michel Barnier (EU chief negotiator) himself has said, the solution can not be based on a precedent so we're looking forward to seeing the EU's position paper on Ireland".

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"Both papers, yesterday and today, are a significant step forward and I think it would be welcomed", he told journalists in Dublin, while cautioning that delivering on their aims would be hard.

Mr Coveney said the immediate focus for the coming rounds of negotiations remained on advancing issues relating to Ireland, along with citizens' rights and the question of a financial settlement between the European Union and UK.

But London says the issue of how goods and people will move across the frontier can not be separated from discussion about wider customs arrangements between Britain and the European Union.

The CBI, which represents 190,000 businesses, said it was encouraged by the government's proposals.

"As Michel Barnier [the EU's chief Brexit negotiator] himself has said, the solution can not be based on a precedent so we're looking forward to seeing the EU's position paper on Ireland." said an European Union source.

FDF director general Ian Wright said: "The UK government's drive for greater clarity on the Brexit process is most welcome".

Over 30,000 people cross the Ireland-Northern Ireland border daily without customs or immigration checks.

The official response from the European Commission undermines that made by Guy Verhofstadt - leader of the European Parliament - who described the contents of the first position paper as "fantasy".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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