The British government’s position paper on the Irish border post-Brexit sets out proposals on what it considers key areas that could be impacted by the withdrawal from the EU.
Good Friday agreement
The British government has stressed the importance of upholding all elements of the 1998 peace deal, which has also relied on significant EU financial support.
In a bid to reassure nationalists in Northern Ireland, it proposes that rights enshrined in the agreement, such as the right to claim Irish citizenship, would not be affected. As such, Irish citizens from the North would continue to be EU citizens post-Brexit.
There is also a commitment to explore ways of maintaining funding streams for peace building and reconciliation work provided by the EU. Europe has invested €2bn into such projects since 1995.
Common Travel Area
The agreement dating back almost a century allows for free movement of Irish and UK citizens in the respective jurisdictions, including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man. The Common Travel Area includes associated rights such as the right to work, study, claim benefits, and vote in elections.
The British government is seeking to retain the Common Travel Area post-Brexit. It says the question of residency and work rights for EU citizens who are not Irish will be addressed later in the Brexit negotiations.
Movement of goods across the border
The British government’s practical vision for managing cross-border trade has come as somewhat of a surprise.
While the notion of physical checkpoints has long been considered a non-runner, especially given the risk of them becoming terror targets, it was thought the British government would still seek to monitor the frontier using less intrusive technology.
However, the paper says the UK wants to avoid any physical infrastructure. Whitehall officials have confirmed this means no CCTV cameras or number-plate recognition systems.
Instead, the document proposes some bespoke customs solutions that would see the majority, if not all Irish businesses avoiding tariffs post-Brexit.
If the EU signs up to the UK’s ambitious proposal of a customs partnership — a customs union in all but name — then there would be no tariff implications on the border at all.
If, as many expect, a less fulsome agreement is reached, the British government still wants 80% of Irish businesses to avoid tariffs. It proposes small to medium-sized operations that criss-cross the border as part of localising daily trade should continue to do so unfettered.
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