Northern Ireland border agreement 'will wait until customs deal struck' says David Davis

Lewis Dean
Brexit Negotiations: Four Biggest Issues

A deal on the Northern Irish border with Ireland will not be made until trade issue have been ironed out, David Davis has said. The the 310 mile border is one of the Brexit secretary's top priorities in negotiations with the European Union to avoid a "hard" border between the countries.

Brexit raised the prospects of passport checks and tariffs at the border, which is the only one on land between the two countries and has been frictionless and virtually invisible since the 1999 Good Friday Agreement.

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Writing in the Sunday Times, Davis said an agreement on the border had to be in place before discussions on customs had been finalised. "It is simply not possible to reach a near-final agreement on the border issue until we've begun to talk about how our broader future customs arrangement will work," he wrote.

"Furthermore, if we get the comprehensive free trade agreement we're seeking as part of our future partnership, solutions in Northern Ireland are easier to deliver. There is real value in discussing a few issues upfront. Doing so should allow us to give businesses and citizens the certainty they need."

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Last week, the government published a paper on Northern Ireland reiterating its ambition to avoid check points and introduce custom tariff exemptions for small and medium businesses.

Britain is unable to make any trade deals until after March 2019 and while Davis is convinced he is ready to discuss a broad deal, the European Commission first wants to confirm Britain's so-called 'divorce bill'.

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Urging the commission to speed up talks, Davis continued: "Both sides need to move swiftly on to discussing our future partnership, and we want that to happen after the European Council in October."

Britain's aim, he said, was to build a "deep and special new partnership with our closest neighbours and allies" while also building a "truly global Britain that can forge new relationships with fast-growing economies around the world."

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