Check Irish goods in continental Europe to avoid hard Border, says Gove
The UK's Environment Secretary Michael Gove has suggested checking Irish goods in continental Europe as a possible way around a hard Border between the Republic and North.
While Mr Gove said he was not advocating it, and that it would be a decision for the EU and Ireland, he suggested it would be a way around the imposition of Border inspection posts.
"I'm not advocating or saying this is the right thing to do," he said.
But he suggested that products that come from the island of Ireland could be checked at a border inspection post in continental Europe.
Mr Gove also conceded that the UK's current no-deal Brexit plans would disadvantage Northern Ireland's agri-food sector.
Under the plans, EU goods arriving from the Republic and remaining in Northern Ireland would not be subject to tariffs.
The Ulster Farmers' Union has said that this would drive down prices and hit producers in Northern Ireland.
It could also potentially open the door to illegal trade, which would seriously affect the integrity of the Northern Ireland agri-food industry.
Speaking at a UK environmental and rural affairs committee hearing, Mr Gove said "it certainly puts Northern Ireland's agri-food industry at a disadvantage".
He further conceded that other nations may yet challenge the legality of the UK's current proposals around tariffs.
Commentators say the continued movement of animals across the Irish Border is the biggest area of concern for the EU ahead of a no-deal scenario.
Officials believe that arrangements can be put in place for tracking ordinary goods brought into the Republic from Northern Ireland to help avoid a hard Border.
Sources say EU agencies are looking at a version of 'maximum facilitation', which was previously derided by the Irish Government and EU as "magical thinking".
The 'max fac' system involves the use of technology to electronically track goods belonging to 'trusted traders' crossing the Border.
However, it will not resolve the question of how to monitor livestock and food products moving between the two jurisdictions.