British gov't to press for no post-Brexit border in Ireland

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-16 22:46:27|Editor: yan
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LONDON, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- In its second Brexit position paper, the British government said Wednesday it did not want any border customs posts along the 500-km border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic when Britain leaves the European Union (EU).

The paper outlines the government's principles for maintaining a seamless and frictionless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will leave the EU along with the rest of the UK. The paper makes it clear Britain does not want a return to the hard borders of the past on the Irish island.

The paper also makes it clear Britain plans to protect the Common Travel Area (CTA) and associated rights for UK and Irish citizens, and uphold the Belfast Agreement which ended almost three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

The CTA began almost a century ago when the Irish Republic was established. It will mean a clear guarantee of no change to the ability of British and Irish citizens to move freely around the CTA that exists now.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said Wednesday that the UK and Ireland had been clear all along about the need to prioritize protecting the Belfast Agreement signed in 1998 that includes cross-border agreements between the two.

"In committing to keep the Common Travel Area, which has existed for nearly a century, we're making sure British and Irish citizens will continue to be able to travel, live, work and study across both countries," Davis said.

The British government said it would push to avoid any physical border infrastructure and border posts between Ireland and Northern Ireland for any purpose following Brexit.

In its first position paper on future customs arrangements published Tuesday, Westminster set out two approaches that Britain could adopt.

One is no customs border at all between the UK and Ireland.

A second possibility is a highly streamlined customs arrangement that could include a cross-border trade exemption, meaning no new customs processes for smaller traders. Currently, over 80 percent of cross-border trade is by SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises).

The paper also suggests a continued waiver on submitting entry/exit declarations and continued membership of a Common Transit Convention to help Northern Ireland and Irish companies to transit goods. It also recommends a new "trusted trader" arrangement for larger businesses.

The new paper also dismisses the idea of a customs border in the Irish Sea as not constitutionally or economically viable.

A spokesman for the government's Brexit Office said: "Both sides need to show flexibility and imagination when it comes to the border issue in Northern Ireland and that is exactly what our latest position paper will do."

"We have some very clear principles. Top of our list is to agree upfront on no physical border infrastructure. That would mean a return to the border posts of the past and is completely unacceptable to the UK."

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire said: "The paper provides flexible and imaginative ideas and demonstrates our desire to find a practical solution that recognises the unique economic, social and cultural context of the land border with Ireland, without creating any new obstacles to trade within the UK."

Media reports in Ireland said the Irish government welcomed the position paper as "timely and helpful" as it offers more clarity on the UK's strategy.

A spokesperson in Dublin was quoted as saying Irish government leaders would analyse Britain's ideas in detail and discuss them with the European Commission and the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.