The dates and deadlines for Brexit negotiations are fast approaching. Since discussions began, the issue of the Irish border has dictated talks and acted as a barrier to achieving any form of agreement. The EU remains steadfast in its belief that the integrity of the single market must be upheld through a “hard” border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, or a border down the Irish sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
As it is becoming increasingly necessary that consensus is reached between the UK and the EU both contingents must be pragmatic in realising the current technical measures which are in place to address the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. There is already a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for security, currency, tax and VAT.
The problem at hand is an issue of compliance – the EU is unsettled by the prospect of goods entering the EU single market which do not uphold EU standards and tariffs. However, a report published today by the European Research Group (ERG) addresses these concerns. The details put forward will satisfy the demands of the EU, also highlighting that through current technologies and methods a solution to the border can be provided, which will ensure the integrity of the single market and the customs through conformity to UK and EU law. A physical infrastructure will not be required at the border.
The current trade that takes place – established and frequent shipments of similar goods – can be achieved by the simplified customs systems already available in the Union Customs Code. Whilst bigger companies are able to make use of respected trader-type schemes. Both processes can be conducted with high levels of compliance and any requirements for added declarations can be integrated into the normal VAT returns system.
For agricultural products, in order to ensure smooth trade across the border, the Island of Ireland must be maintained as a Common Biosecurity Zone. Additionally, the Government will benefit from sustaining identical standards at the point of departure between the UK and EU.
Built upon mutual trust, the existing legal and operational structures can guarantee the achievement of the aforementioned proposals. The United Kingdom can establish an independent trade strategy that will not be detrimental to the EU Single market and any risks of criminal activity – fraud or smuggling – can be dealt with by cooperation of authorities on both sides of the border. Whilst based upon existing technology and procedures, these logical and straightforward propositions will preserve essential trade without the necessity of a physical border. Finally, without threatening the peace in Northern Ireland or reducing a devotion to the Belfast Agreement, co-operation and progress can be pursued for the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.