‘No evidence’ hard border can be avoided in Ireland, MPs admit

‘No evidence’ hard border can be avoided in Ireland, MPs admit

A DAMNING report on the issues relating to the border in Ireland reveals there is “no evidence” the return of physical checkpoints and infrastructure can be avoided once Britain leaves the EU.  

The report, by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, entitled The Land Border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, states “we have seen no evidence to suggest that, right now, an invisible border is possible”.

Published today, it calls upon the British Government to “bring forward without delay” detailed plans on how it will “operate and maintain an invisible border”.

Conservative MP Dr Andrew Murrison chairs the Committee, which includes fellow Tory MPs Robert Goodwill and Jack Lopresti among its membership.

Labour MPs John Grogan, Conor McGinn and Kate Hoey are also members, sitting alongside the DUP's Gregory Campbell, Ian Paisley Jr and Jim Shannon.

There are 13 members of the cross-party group in total.

The report follows their examination of whether it wil be possible for Britain to leave the EU's single market and customs union without creating a hard border in Ireland.

In their findings, they state: “The Committee has heard numerous proposals for how the UK and the EU could ensure customs compliance without physical infrastructure at the border.

“This is currently the case for enforcement in relation to fuel, alcohol and tobacco.

“ These proposals address the question of compliance through mobile patrols, risk analysis, data-sharing and enforcement measures away from the border.

“However, we have had no visibility of any technical solutions, anywhere in the world, beyond the aspirational, that would remove the need for physical infrastructure at the border.”

They add: “We recommend the Government bring forward detailed proposals, without further delay, that set out how it will maintain an open and invisible border.”

The report further states that the 12 month negotiating period around the border issue – which is due to end in March 2019 – is insufficient.

“The current negotiating timeline means, in our view, it would be challenging to expect full implementation of a new, non-visible, customs regime by March 2019,” it states.

“We have seen no evidence to suggest that, right now, an invisible border is possible.”

The MPs suggest that Britain be allowed to remain in the customs union and single market until a solution is found.

“To provide adequate time for new customs processes to be put in place, the UK may need to remain in or parallel to the Customs Union and Single Market throughout the implementation period,” they explain.

“During this implementation period, we call upon the Government to work closely with counterparts in Ireland and the EU to develop an innovative border system capable of delivering customs compliance without traditional physical infrastructure at the border.”

The report goes on to warn against leaving the EU entirely without such a solution in place, claiming: “Leaving the EU without reaching an agreement in relation to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland would have very negative consequences.

“We welcome both the UK and the EU’s commitment to ensuring this does not happen.

“We recommend that this reality is specifically addressed in statements made by Ministers.”