Wednesday 23 May 2018

Calls for the UK to boost its diplomatic footprint in Ireland

David Davis told the House of Lords EU Committee that the easiest way to have an “invisible” border is to have a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and UK, Photo: PA
David Davis told the House of Lords EU Committee that the easiest way to have an “invisible” border is to have a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and UK, Photo: PA

Colm Keplie

The UK should boost its diplomatic footprint in Ireland in terms of size and seniority to help maintain relations post Brexit, a Westminster committee has said.

The Foreign Affairs committee of the House of Commons said it regrets that tensions between Ireland and the UK late last year over Brexit and the phase one agreement on the border appeared to "endanger" the hard won work done to improve relations.

A report from the committee published today noted that close relations with Ireland are vital for the UK’s national interests.

“We therefore welcome the Government’s commitment to preserving the progress that has been made in UK-Ireland relations in recent years and its pledge that there will be no return to the borders and the violence of the past,” the report stated.

“We regret that tensions in the period leading up to the European Council summit in December appeared to endanger the hard-won positive momentum in UK-Ireland relations.”

The report, which focuses on the future of UK diplomacy in Europe, concluded that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) should increase its diplomatic presence in Ireland and produce an analysis of the UK-Ireland bilateral relationship.

This, it said, should contain recommendations to improve it and options to “revitalise existing, or create new, bilateral institutions”.

“In order to ensure that the foundations of UK-Ireland relations remain as strong as they can be, we recommend that the FCO increase its diplomatic presence in Ireland, both in terms of size and seniority, beyond the additional UK-based staff deployed in the Embassy in Dublin after the Brexit referendum,” the report noted.

“This additional deployment of UK based staff should focus on public relations as well as inter-governmental relations.”

It comes as Brexit Secretary David Davis told the House of Lords EU Committee that the easiest way to have an “invisible” border is to have a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and UK, and with that a “minimalist” customs arrangement.

“If that doesn’t happen, then we will seek to have explicit arrangements with the Irish Government. The third option is full alignment,” he said.

Mr Davis signalled the UK would not look to diverge from the EU in terms of rules around animal health standards, or food standards, transport or environmental emission standards.

He said the UK government would be seeking to ensure that the Single Electricity Market works as it currently does.

Mr Davis said that if the UK gets a free trade agreement, the UK would look to make that tariff free.

“In that event, a stop for tariff collection is not necessarily. Do you need to stop for regulatory inspection? We would be aiming to get mutual equivalence recognition across the board. WE would be seeking to use techniques like authorised economic operator arrangements

He said rules of origin issues “cannot be side stepped”, but rules around that could be encompassed in a free trade deal.

Online Editors

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