European Research Group publishes guide to keeping the Irish border invisible post-Brexit

The European Research Group has just published its proposals for ensuring the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland can remain invisible after Brexit, while remaining faithful to delivering for the entire UK a clean break from the European Union.
The paper, The Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland post-Brexit, reminds us that both the UK and EU have committed to introduce no new physical infrastructure at the border, but notes that “there is, at present, a border between the two countries for tax, VAT, currency, excise and security; these are managed using technologies without infrastructure at the physical border”. It continues:
“The key obstacle in the negotiations is the EU’s concern that goods could enter into the Single Market area through the Irish border without being compliant with EU standards or tariffs. The question for the EU is whether this risk to the integrity of the Single Market is so serious that it could block a Free Trade Agreement with the UK.”
Here is the key passage from the Executive Summary of the paper:
“The checks that are required post-Brexit to retain the integrity of the EU Single Market and Customs Union include customs declarations, declarations of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary checks and checks on product compliance. Cross-border trade on the island of Ireland is mostly comprised of regular shipments of the same goods. This repetitive trade is well suited to established technical solutions and simplified customs procedures already available in the Union Customs Code.
“Larger companies may take advantage of trusted trader-type schemes. This status provides assurance of a high degree of compliance and hence entitles the bearer to simplified procedures. For all companies, the requirements for additional declarations can be incorporated into the existing system used for VAT returns. Licensed customs brokers can be engaged to support businesses in dealing with rules of origin and customs arrangements.
“For agricultural products, the Government should agree equivalence of UK and EU regulations and conformity assessment. Since UK and EU standards are identical and will remain identical at the point of departure, determining equivalence after Brexit should be straightforward. The current smooth movement of agricultural products across the Irish border, without the need for border inspection posts, can be continued by maintaining the island of Ireland as a Common Biosecurity Zone.
“The proposals set out below can be realised within the existing legal and operational frameworks of the EU and the UK, based on the mutual trust on which regular trade depends. Any risk of fraud or smuggling can be addressed by effective co-operation by authorities on both sides of the border, as already occurs with smuggling of drugs, cigarettes, fuel and alcohol.
“Such measures can ensure that the trade across the Irish border is maintained. They do nothing to alter the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, and do not violate the Principle of Consent enshrined in the Belfast Agreement. The integrity of the EU Single Market is safeguarded. The UK and the EU would be free to conclude a far-reaching Free Trade Agreement.”


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