Britain to submit new Irish border proposals as Brexit end-game looms

Source: Xinhua| 2019-10-02 11:45:21|Editor: ZX
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LONDON, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- Britain is expected to submit new proposals to avert a post-Brexit hard border on the island of Ireland this week as most British ministers are attending an annual conference focusing on Brexit.

The issue of what happens to the border after Britain leaves the European Union (EU) has become one of the main stumbling blocks for the Brexit deal with Brussels so that a Monday report by Irish national broadcaster RTE about hard borders caused a frenzy of comments Tuesday in Dublin, London, Brussels as well as Manchester where Prime Minister Boris Johnson and most of his ministers are attending the annual Conservative Party Conference.

Citing leaked government proposals, the RTE said that Britain is proposing setting up "customs clearance centers" on both sides of the Irish border after Brexit.

In the House of Commons, junior Brexit Minister James Duddridge faced an avalanche of questions following the RTE report. He told the legislators that formal proposals from the British government for an alternative to the Irish backstop issue will be sent to Brussels before the end of this week.

"That is not the intention. Those reports simply are incorrect," Duddridge said, adding that the leaked confidential technical papers are not the government's formal position.

"The technical papers are not even our final proposals to the Commission. They are very much working documents, but we will be giving proposals to the European Commission shortly," Duddridge said.

Political commentators at the party conference in Manchester reported there is an expectation that the plans will be submitted to the EU after the conference concludes on Wednesday afternoon when Johnson will close the conference with a keynote speech.

In an early evening interview with the BBC, Johnson said Britain will put forward some very constructive and far-reaching proposals to the EU for an alternative to the backstop.

"If the EU is going to insist on customs checks then we will have to accept that reality. And there will have to be a system for customs checks away from the border. We think those checks can be absolutely minimal and non-intrusive and won't involve new infrastructure," he said.

"We can ensure that there aren't checks at the border, no physical, no interruption of trade or movement of people. And we can also protect the benefits that Ireland has got over the years from the EU single market," said Johnson.

Apart from domestic issues, the immigration system was also discussed in the Manchester conference. Home Secretary Priti Patel, in charge of interior issues, said once Britain leaves the EU it will introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system.

Describing the current situation as a defining moment in British history, Patel told delegates: "It is to end the free movement of people once and for all, a system that works in the best interests of Britain, one that attracts and welcomes the brightest and the best, and one that is under the control of the British government."

On crime control, Patel said police chiefs in Britain would be given more power to equip cops with tasers.

At a fringe meeting in Manchester, Transport Minister George Freeman said the government assumed that Brexit disruption would roughly halve the traffic on Britain's main trading link for three months with drops between 40 percent to 60 percent.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said it has made preparations so a wholesale meltdown is not expected, but people will see less fresh produce. Deputy CEO of the FTA James Hookham said the association will hold 140 training sessions in the next few weeks to educate hauliers about the potential paperwork needed.

According to the Telegraph, Hookham said, "The biggest unknown in our book is what the French and EU will demand in terms of British goods imported into the EU."