Britain doesn’t want physical infrastructure – such as customs posts or immigration checks – on the Irish border after Brexit.
The complex issue, is one of the three key negotiating points before Britain can negotiate trade agreements with the EU.
British Prime Minister, Theresa May reiterated her hope that goods and people could continue to cross what will be the UK’s only land border with Europe, uninhibited. She said: “As we look forward to Brexit, of course we do want to ensure that we don’t see a return to the borders of the past, we don’t see a return to a hard border and that we’re able to ensure that the crucial flow of goods and people between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is able to continue in the future.”
The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, gave a luke warm welcome to the UKs position paper saying it lacked details. Conveney told the press:
“The vast majority of those principles I think reflect the kind of language that we have been using as the Irish government and so therefore is welcome. Of course what we don`t have is the detail to how its going to work and so we will now be consulting in some detail with the Michel Barnier EU taskforce in terms of how we approach the negotiations that begin on the 28th which is the next round of negotiation between the EU and the UK”
Several EU representatives have been highly critical of the British Government’s handling of the issue with Guy Verhofstadt called it “a fantasy”.
To be in & out of the Customs Union & “invisible borders” is a fantasy. First need to secure citizens rights & a financial settlement— Guy Verhofstadt (@GuyVerhofstadt) August 15, 2017
The border is a thorny issue as it is tangled up in Northern Ireland’s peace agreement known as the Good Friday Agreement, which has been a template for conflict resolution all over the world.
Some 30,000 people cross the 500km border unhindered everyday. There are growing fears that any semblance of a “hard border’ (meaning even customs or immigration checkpoints) would have devastating implications for trade on both sides of the border and could even reignite the bitter conflict which raged on the island for 30 years.
Britain hopes to exempt small traders and farmers from customs regulations and create “regulatory equivalence” with the EU to avoid inspections for goods crossing the border. Fears remain that this could create a “backdoor” into the EU.