Sunday 19 November 2017

Britain's Border plans 'are just not credible'

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney Picture: Steve Humphreys
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney Picture: Steve Humphreys

Shona Murray

The UK approach to the Border problem is "not compatible" with the solutions that Ireland needs, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has warned.

He said that ideas put forward to deal with the thorny issue of customs and the Border so far - such as waiver schemes - were "neither comprehensive or credible".

He was speaking as a British report cautioned that failure to complete the introduction of a new customs system by the date of Brexit in 2019 would be "catastrophic", with the risk of huge disruption for businesses.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee warned of massive queues at Dover and food being left to rot in trucks at the Border.

The number of customs declarations that HM Revenue and Customs must process each year could increase almost five-fold after the UK's departure from the European Union - from 55 million to 255 million.

But HMRC does not yet have the funding to increase the capacity of its new Customs Declaration Service.

The committee's chairwoman, Labour MP Meg Hillier, said: "Failure to have a viable customs system in place before the UK's planned exit from the EU would wreak havoc for UK business, trade and our international reputation. Confidence would collapse amid the potentially catastrophic effects."

However, the paper also noted the government's position was to maintain a common travel area with Ireland so there is no border.

Mr Coveney said: "It would be much easier to deal with an orderly Brexit if Britain were to be part of the same customs union; if Britain were to agree to avoid regulatory divergence from the standards and regulation within the single market.

"If the rulebook for producing food, for example, is different in Northern Ireland to Ireland, well then of course that creates the need for barriers because you have to have a checking system and so on.

"We find it very difficult to see how you can have a functioning all-island economy... It's very hard to maintain that post-Brexit if Northern Ireland is not part of the same customs union; if Northern Ireland has a different regulatory environment."

Irish Independent

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