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Tag: Irish border

Police in Belfast, 2013. Photo: Joshua Hayes via a CC-BY-SA 2.0 licence

What no-deal really means for customs on the Northern Irish border (LSE Brexit)

Police in Belfast, 2013. Photo: Joshua Hayes via a CC-BY-SA 2.0 licence

January 22nd, 2019

We still have little idea what the customs arrangements on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will be after 29 March. A border control expert explains why the border is so crucial and sets out the scale of the task customs and other regulatory bodies on both sides of the border will face.

If the United Kingdom leaves the EU as scheduled, the EU will treat it as a “third country” – with inevitable consequences for border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The extent of these controls will be determined by the terms of the UK’s withdrawal. While the primary impact will be felt in the area of customs controls, a range of other regulatory controls, including agriculture, marine, health, environmental and plant health may come into play.

In the worst case scenario of a no-deal Brexit, the customs relationship between UK and Ireland could, in theory, be compared with that which exists between eastern EU states and their non-EU neighbours – for example, Hungary and Ukraine, or Bulgaria and Serbia.

The stated position of both British and Irish politicians, as well EU officials, is that there is no desire to see a return to the Irish land border controls which operated before both countries became members of the Single Market in 1993. It has been suggested that an “invisible” border without a physical infrastructure, but relying on technology such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), could operate.

Comparisons have been drawn with the existing Norway/Sweden relationship, which allows for certain simplified procedures for movement of people and trade between these states. However, a critical factor in the free movement of people in this region is that both countries are members of the Schengen area. Article 41of the Schengen Convention provides for cross-border pursuit by police forces. Neither the UK nor Ireland is a Schengen member. In terms of trade movements, Norway is a member of European Economic Area and European Free Trade Association and therefore enjoys certain Single Market trading conditions. Despite this both Norway and Sweden operate controls – including some cargo inspection – along their shared border, with a requirement that trade movements pass through one of the several border customs stations.

Technologies such as ANPR and CCTV are used at these border crossings, but as with a wide range of technologies available to customs, they are seen by practitioners as a means to enhance border controls rather than to replace them.

The presence of any fiscal or economic border provides opportunities for smuggling and other forms of criminal activity. The political situation in NI adds an extra dimension to a land border scenario. Serious organised crime groups continue to smuggle and deal in tobacco, alcohol and prescription medicines. Effective border controls and law enforcement measures will be required to prevent escalation of these activities. The PSNI has outlined plans to recruit and deploy an extra 300 officers to police the border, but the Irish government has said that it has no similar contingency plans to increase Garda numbers in the border area.

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Draft Political Declaration setting out the Framework for the Future Relationship between the EU and the UK (European Council press release)

European Council President Donald Tusk today sent the EU27 Member States the draft Political Declaration setting out the Framework for the Future Relationship between the EU and the UK that has been agreed at negotiators’ level and agreed in principle at political level, subject to the endorsement of the Leaders.

Coreper (Art. 50) met today to assess the document. Friday morning, the EU27 Sherpas will meet to finalise preparations for the special European Council (Art. 50) on Sunday.

Draft political declaration (pdf)

Visit the Council of the EU website



Withdrawal Agreement explainer and Technical Explanatory note on Articles 6-8 on the Northern Ireland Protocol (UK Government Policy Paper)

Published 14 November 2018
From: Department for Exiting the European Union

Explainer to support understanding of the draft Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union.

Click on below links to open the pdf documents:

14_November_Explainer_for_the_agreement_on_the_withdrawal_of_the_United_Kingdom_of_Great_Britain_and_Northern_Ireland_from_the_European_Union___1.    PDF, 254KB, 56 pages

14_November_Technical_Explanatory_Note_Arts_6-8_Northern_Ireland_ProtocolPDF, 64.1KB, 2 pages


The draft Withdrawal Agreement sets out the provisional terms of the UK’s smooth and orderly exit from the European Union. It reflects agreement in principle between the UK and EU negotiating teams on the full legal text. This document has been produced to support understanding of the legal text.

The Northern Ireland technical note reflects commonly agreed principles between the UK and the EU as to how Articles 6 to 8 of the Northern Ireland Protocol included in the Withdrawal Agreement would operate in any scenario in which the provisions came into effect. These provisions relate to the single customs territory, movement of goods and protection of the UK’s internal market.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement, outline Political Declaration and Joint Statement on the future relationship are available here.




Theresa May’s Brexit deal crashes as EU ‘turns off life support’ (The Times)

Theresa May’s plan for avoiding a hard border with Ireland has been rejected by the EU

Brussels rejects her key compromise as four ‘remain’ ministers on verge of quitting

Caroline Wheeler, Deputy Political Editor
November 11 2018, 12:01am

Theresa May has been plunged into a deeper crisis after Brussels rejected her key Brexit proposal, which was intended to avoid the UK being trapped in an indefinite customs union.

The prime minister had hoped to unite her cabinet and overcome the final hurdle in negotiations with the EU by offering to create an “independent mechanism” to oversee how the UK might leave a temporary customs arrangement if Brexit talks collapsed.

But this weekend senior EU officials sent shockwaves through No 10 by rejecting May’s plan, sparking fears that negotiations have broken down days before “no-deal” preparations costing billions need to be implemented.

The mechanism was seen by key members of the cabinet, including the attorney-general, Geoffrey Cox, as crucial to preventing the so-called Northern Irish “backstop” being used to force the UK into being a “never-ending rule-taker from Brussels”.

A Whitehall source described the plan as the government’s “life-support machine”, adding: “By rejecting the proposal, the EU has just turned off the oxygen.” A senior cabinet minister said: “This is the moment she has to face down Brussels and make it clear to them that they need to compromise, or we will leave without a deal.”

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No-deal plan ‘will include new border in Irish Sea’. DUP accuses May after leaked letter from No 10. (The Times)

A letter from Theresa May has led DUP leaders to fear she will renege on a promise to prevent any division between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK

Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor
November 8 2018, 10:00pm

The five-page letter, leaked to The Times, was sent on Tuesday from Mrs May to Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, and Nigel Dodds, her deputy.

In it, the prime minister says that the EU is still pushing for the “backstop to the backstop” but insists that she would never allow a divide between Ulster and Great Britain to “come into force”.

A Brussels plan to put a customs border in the Irish Sea if there is no Brexit agreement will be included in a divorce deal, a leaked letter from Theresa May suggests.

The prime minister was accused last night of breaking her promise to the Democratic Unionist Party that she would never sign up to a deal that could allow Northern Ireland to be divided from the rest of the United Kingdom.

The European plan, known as the “backstop to the backstop”, would leave Northern Ireland tied to the single market and customs union if Brexit talks collapse. Brussels wants this insurance policy to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Mrs May has previously said that no UK prime minister could ever agree to such a plan.

This wording has been interpreted by the DUP to mean that the clause will nevertheless be inserted into the legally binding agreement.

Mrs Foster said: “The prime minister’s letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious Union and for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole of the UK. It appears the prime minister is wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish Sea with Northern Ireland in the EU single market regulatory regime.”

The letter also says that the government does “not expect regulations to diverge between Great Britain and Northern Ireland” during the backstop, meaning the whole of the UK will be tied closely to European rules.

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Theresa May

Revealed: Theresa May’s secret Brexit deal (The Times)

The PM’s preparations for a final deal are believed to be far more advanced than previously disclosed

Tim Shipman, Political Editor
November 4 2018, 12:01am,
The Sunday Times

Breakthrough on Irish border as PM woos Tory rebels

Theresa May’s secret plan to secure a Brexit deal and win the backing of parliament can be revealed today.

Senior sources say the prime minister has secured private concessions from Brussels that will allow her to keep the whole of Britain in a customs union, avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland. They expect this to placate remainer Tories and win over some Labour MPs.

And in a move that will appeal to Eurosceptics, May is also said to be on course to secure a political deal on a “future economic partnership” (FEP) with the European Union that will allow Britain to keep open the prospect of a free trade deal resembling that enjoyed by Canada.

The Sunday Times has been told that preparations for a final deal are far more advanced than previously disclosed and will lead to a document of 50 pages or more when it is published — not the vague, five-page plan many expect.

Cabinet sources say parts of it “could have been written by Jacob Rees-Mogg”, the leader of the hardline Eurosceptics.

A close aide of Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator, revealed a major concession on the Irish border during a private meeting in London last week. The EU now accepts that regulatory checks on goods can take place “in the market” by British officials, meaning they can be conducted at factories and shops rather than at the border.

Downing Street officials are desperate to see enough progress this week for the EU to announce a special summit later in November to agree the final details. May will discuss the proposals with her cabinet on Tuesday.

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May’s carefully crafted Brexit fudge on a collision course with Westminster (The Times)

Oliver Wright, October 18 2018, 5:00pm, The Times

The trouble with summits is that no matter how much you plan they have a tendency to throw up unintended consequences.

So it was in Salzburg and so it is in Brussels.

Briefings yesterday evening by EU officials revealed that Theresa May had told other leaders during her 15-minute address that she was prepared to consider extending the 21-month transition period to break the impasse over the Irish border.

Downing Street had spent the day desperately trying not to address the issue, knowing that it would be political dynamite at home.

Once the other side had let the cat out of the bag, however, they had no choice but to engage and the revelation has set off a firestorm in London.

Nick Boles, a former skills minister, said that Conservatives were “close to despair” and feared that Mrs May was conspiring with the EU to force MPs to accept a “humiliating” compromise to avoid a chaotic Brexit.

The backbench Eurosceptic Nadine Dorries called for David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, to take over as caretaker leader.

Despite the hysteria, all is not quite as it seems. That doesn’t mean that it is good news for the prime minister, merely that her problems are not quite as caricatured.

Under the complicated deal being cobbled together between British and European negotiators to get around the backstop issue a consensus is forming on a legal and political deal that will allow all sides to claim partial victory.

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Brexit Talks Put on Hold as Stalemate Deepens (Bloomberg)

By Ian Wishart , Nikos Chrysoloras , and Tim Ross
October 14, 2018, 8:14 PM GMT+2 Updated on October 15, 2018, 7:56 AM GMT+2

  • Raab-Barnier meeting ended after an hour in Brussels
  • There is now the risk of a no-deal summit in November

The U.K. and the European Union are on course to miss this week’s key milestone on the road to a Brexit deal after talks broke up in stalemate on Sunday, people familiar with the matter said.

A weekend of intense negotiations — including a surprise dash by Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab to meet his EU counterpart Michel Barnier in Brussels — failed to break the deadlock.

There will be no further attempt to resolve the impasse before EU leaders gather in the Belgian capital on Wednesday for the summit they’d hoped to use to finalize the divorce.

Officials on both sides have now all-but given up on a breakthrough this week, and are increasingly concerned that time is running out to get an agreement before the U.K.’s exit in March, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential.

“Despite intense efforts, some key issues are still open,” Barnier said on Twitter after his hour-long meeting with Raab. For his part, the Brexit secretary left Brussels and traveled back to London without making any comment.

Hopes Dashed

The weekend was meant to be a chance to crack the thorniest issue in talks — what to do with the Irish border — so that leaders meeting for a summit on Wednesday could declare progress and signal that a final deal could be signed in mid-November.

That timetable — which markets have started to price in — has been thrown off and there’s likely to be more talk of how to prepare for a chaotic and acrimonious no-deal split. The pound fell early on Monday.

A key meeting of EU governments scheduled for Monday was canceled and negotiations will likely to be paused for some time, according to EU diplomats.

The major sticking point remains how to avoid the need for a hard customs border at the land frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit. One proposal is to keep the U.K. inside the EU’s customs union on a temporary basis, which would mean no new checks on goods passing from Northern Ireland to Ireland would be needed.

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Brexit deal on Irish border is in sight, says EU (The Times)

Britain would stay in an EU-wide customs regime until the technology exists to ensure no hard border in Ireland

Oliver Wright, Policy Editor
October 5 2018, 12:00pm

North would diverge and follow single market regulations

European Union Brexit negotiators have told national diplomats in Brussels that a deal to solve the Irish border issue is now “very close”.

After talks yesterday between Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, sources in the commission told Reuters that both sides were closing in on an agreement.

The basis of a deal was understood to centre around proposals, revealed by The Times on Tuesday, that are due to be formally tabled by the British side imminently. Under the plan the whole of the UK would remain within an EU-wide single customs regime until the technology exists to ensure no hard border in Ireland.

Northern Ireland would diverge from Britain and follow single market regulations that cover the sale of goods crossing the border. The government is insisting that this would have to be agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, if and when it is reinstated.

Sterling rose to a ten-week high of 88.19 pence against the euro on news of the deal being close. The pound also hit a five-day high against the US dollar of $1.3053.

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The view of the Republic of Ireland from a bridge over the Dublin to Belfast motorway CRISPIN RODWELL FOR THE TIMES

Brexit and the Irish border (The Times)

The view of the Republic of Ireland from a bridge over the Dublin to Belfast motorway

The Times, April 6 2018

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is one of the biggest obstacles to a Brexit deal. Reporting from Ireland and six other European countries, Raphael Hogarth, Adam Sage, Hannah Lucinda Smith and Ryan Watts investigate possible solutions.

the Irish government have said that Britain has until June to come up with a workable plan to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Without a “legally operable” proposal, Brussels has warned, the entire deal could be in doubt.

Theresa May promised in December that the UK would avoid “any physical infrastructure or related checks” at the Irish border. Yet it is still not clear how the government can square this with its pledge to take the UK out of the single market and the customs union, which the EU says will inevitably lead to frictions in trade.

The cabinet is divided down the middle. Some ministers favour an innovative “customs partnership” with the EU, under which goods are electronically tracked to their destination in order to determine which businesses need to pay which duties.

Others prefer the “maximum facilitation” option, which would use advanced customs technology from around the world to minimise checks. Both have been attacked as unworkable by the EU.

The Democratic Unionist Party, on which the prime minister depends for her majority in parliament, remains fiercely opposed to any deal that would subject Northern Ireland to different rules from Great Britain.

So what will the Irish border look like after Brexit? The Times investigates how Irish communities along the border live now, how other countries manage their borders with the EU and what a new regime could mean for the peace process.

Table comparing checks and applicable regulations at various European borders
Table comparing checks and applicable regulations at various European borders


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Chief EU negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier

EU’s Barnier vows to ‘improve’ Irish border plan to secure Brexit deal but STILL says checks must apply between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland (Daily Mail)

  • Michel Barnier has claimed that talks with UK were now in the ‘home straight’
  • Theresa May will use Salzburg speech to try to kill off idea of a Irish hard border
  • Mr Barnier said last night that EU will ‘improve’ its offer to break the deadlock
  • He claims customs officials could inspect goods entering UK away from border

Michel Barnier has vowed to ‘improve’ the EU’s Irish border plan to secure a Brexit deal – but is still insisting that checks must apply between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

The bloc’s chief negotiator said he hoped talks were on the ‘home straight’ and he was working on a compromise to bring agreement into ‘grasp’.

But he made clear that the proposal will put the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – something Theresa May is adamant she will not accept as it would risk splitting the union.

The manoeuvring comes as Mrs May heads for Salzburg to plead for EU leaders to help break the deadlock in talks.

The premier had hoped to discuss her Chequers plan directly with counterparts for the first time. But EU council president Donald Tusk stepped in to quash the idea – meaning Mrs May will have to make do with a 10 minute speech over dinner tonight that is set to be received in silence by other leaders.

Mr Barnier renewed his efforts to ‘de-dramatise’ the Irish border issue last night by saying he was working on a new draft of his blueprint.

The EU official suggested officials could inspect goods entering the UK via Ireland on ferries and in business premises away from the border.

He said: ‘We are ready to improve this proposal. Work on the EU side is ongoing. We are clarifying which goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK would need to be checked and where, when and by whom these checks could be performed’.

The 67-year-old said talks were in the ‘home straight’, although two key issues remained unresolved ahead of October’s deadlines – one being the problem surrounding the Irish border.

Barnier said that an Irish ‘backstop’ must be legally operationally and respect the UK’s constitutional integrity.

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Theresa May and her husband Philip May arriving at church in Sonning yesterday PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS

Boost for May as EU backs Irish border plan (The Times)

High-tech solution raises chances of a deal.

The European Union is secretly preparing to accept a frictionless Irish border after Brexit in a move that raises the prospect of Theresa May striking a deal by the end of the year.

In a concession to British concerns, EU negotiators want to use technological solutions to minimise customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Under the EU plan, goods could be tracked using barcodes on shipping containers under “trusted-trader” schemes administered by registered companies. This would remove the need for new border infrastructure.

A sticking point in the talks to date has been how to avoid the return of a “hard” border in Northern Ireland with new checks or controls amid fears that it could lead to renewed conflict.

The government has refused to accept the EU’s initial proposal that there would, in effect, have to be a border in the Irish Sea, with checks on goods before they left mainland Britain.

The Brussels plan, called the “backstop”, caused outrage among Conservatives and their parliamentary allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, by creating a different constitutional and territorial status for Northern Ireland.

In a development that could help the prime minister to sell her Brexit plans to a sceptical party, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is working on a new “protocol” text outlining a plan to use technology to minimise checks. The proposals are to be circulated to European governments after the Conservative Party conference on October 3.

It is hoped that the draft will help Mrs May to survive long enough to reach an agreement with Brussels this winter. The new protocol will go far further than before in accepting the argument of the British government and many Brexiteers that technology can solve the riddle of how to avoid checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

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Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier EMMANUEL DUNAND

Brexit: EU squashes hopes of Ireland breakthrough in Salzburg (The Times)

EU leaders are expected to offer Theresa May little more than kind words at a summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg on Wednesday, damping hopes of a Brexit breakthrough, despite a looming autumn deadline for agreement on a deal.

The Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, said on Friday that EU and UK talks were “closing in on workable solutions to the outstanding issues”, and Michel Barnier, the Brussels negotiator, has said a deal is possible within six to eight weeks.

In reality the talks have made no progress on the most difficult issue — the Northern Ireland “backstop” — in months. EU diplomats said hopes of a breakthrough had been put on ice until after the Tory party conference at the end of this month.

EU diplomats are now so wary about any initiative they propose being twisted and used against May by hardline Brexit MPs that they have decided to hold off on new proposals until she gets through the conference.

Last week rumours swirled in Brussels that EU leaders would agree new instructions for Barnier at the Salzburg summit, leaning on him to push more earnestly for a deal. But within days officials had scotched any hopes of a new mandate.

“This expectation is totally wrong,” said an EU diplomat.

Salzburg, once seen as a possible turning point in the talks, has been reduced to a mere stock-taking exercise. “The less that comes out of this summit, the better for everyone,” said a diplomat.

Instead, tough decisions on the Northern Ireland border have been put off until next month or a possible emergency leaders’ summit in November, bringing the negotiators dangerously close to a hard deadline on a withdrawal agreement.

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The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Photograph: Matthias Graben/REX/Shutterstock

EU27 to offer May a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to Brexit (The Guardian)

Leaders to offer May warm words on Chequers plan but demand Irish border solution

The EU27 are planning a “carrot and stick” approach to Brexit at an upcoming summit, offering Theresa May warm words on the Chequers plans to take to the Conservative conference alongside a sharp warning that they need a plan for Northern Ireland within weeks.

The twin statements from the EU leaders at the meeting in Salzburg later this month would seek to give the British prime minister some evidence of progress in negotiations on the future trade deal as she seeks to fight off the threat of rebelling MPs.

However, under the plans being discussed among the 27, a shot would be fired across May’s bows on the issue of a backstop for Northern Ireland, an issue on which officials and diplomats are becoming increasingly frustrated.

May committed in December, and again in March, to agree on a plan for avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This would come into force if a trade deal or bespoke technological solution that could do the same job was not available by the end of the transition period, on 31 December 2020.

The EU27 fear the British are seeking to push back the resolution of this issue into the transition period, after the UK has left the EU on 29 March 2019.

Tempers have flared in recent negotiations over the issue and member states want to send a clear warning that they are not willing to let the issue remain unresolved.

One EU diplomat said: “The first part will say that the Chequers proposals were welcomed and that we are talking about the future: an unprecedented deal which will be our best effort at an internal market in goods.

“That is all true and it is something for her [May] to have at conference, that she needs. The second statement will be a very stern warning. It is clear that the British game plan is to push this back, but they need to step on it now, and stop playing around.”

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The Times: Liam Fox says there is a 60‑40 chance of no-deal Brexit

Fox: heading for a ‘bureaucrats’ Brexit’

Britain is odds-on to crash out of the European Union without a deal, Liam Fox warns today.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the international trade secretary put the chances of a no deal departure at “60-40”, squarely blaming the “intransigence” of the European Commission.

Fox accused Eurocrats of harbouring a “theological obsession” with EU rules rather than “economic wellbeing”, which would lead to “only one outcome”.

His intervention comes amid growing fears about the potential collapse in talks. Downing Street refused to say what Theresa May achieved when the prime minister visited the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in the south of France on Friday to discuss her Chequers blueprint for a future relationship with the EU.

Speaking as he completed a trade mission to Japan, Fox said that he had previously not thought the prospects of a no-deal Brexit were “more than 50-50” but the risk of no trade deal had increased.

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