Sunday 22 September 2019

Customs partnership would ease Border issue - Bradley

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Michael McHugh

A customs partnership after Brexit would make it easier to deal with the Border question, the UK's Northern Ireland secretary has said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit "war cabinet" met again this week without reaching agreement on which of the two options for customs arrangements on the Irish Border - the "customs partnership" or "maximum facilitation" models - it will back.

The EU wants the UK to present its preferred option at a meeting of the European Council in June, although Downing Street insists it will not put a timetable on the process.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley (inset) said yesterday: "Both of the customs options that are on the table could potentially be made to work.

"There is no doubt that a customs partnership hybrid model makes the Irish Border situation easier, there is no doubt the question of the Irish Border is resolved by the customs partnership in an easier way than maximum facilitation."

The Border is one of the most significant issues facing Brexit negotiators. Under a customs partnership, an external tariff common with the EU would be imposed when goods entered the UK and they would be able to move "seamlessly" across the island of Ireland, Ms Bradley told the EU scrutiny committee at Westminster.

That could assuage worries of businesses which are seeking frictionless trade. Ms Bradley said she was keeping an open mind about both options.

She reiterated her position on the EU's "back-stop" option which would see alignment of Northern Ireland-related matters with the EU. She said: "We don't want the back-stop to happen. We want to solve the issue of the Irish Border through the overall EU/UK relationship. Option B is that we resolve it through the UK/EU relationship but with specific provisions for the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland."

Irish Independent

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