Northern Ireland border plan ‘will be back door for EU smugglers’

Kate Proctor
Talks: Theresa May and Ireland premier Leo Varadkar in June. The Prime Minister has stressed Britain will not turn its back on the unique relationship between the two countries: PA

Britain's proposals for a customs arrangement with the EU has been labelled a “smugglers’ charter” in a damning critique by a leading Irish politician.

The Government’s latest Brexit position paper on Northern Ireland suggests goods could travel freely between the UK and Irish Republic after Britain leaves the EU without the need for a hard border.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, said border checks would not be necessary if modern technology was put in place and described the plans as “imaginative”.

But Senator Mark Daly, deputy leader of the Irish opposition party Fianna Fáil, said the proposals would only exacerbate existing cross-border smuggling.

He said: “It would be a smugglers charter. Our border would be a back door into Europe so people would import goods that are cheaper under tariff arrangements with the UK then bring them into the Republic, then onto the EU.”

“The UK want to advantage economically over the EU and will do preferential trade agreements with none EU countries — that becomes a smugglers’ charter. We already have a smuggling problem while both jurisdictions are within the EU.”

He also doubted the UK’s optimism their proposals for future customs arrangements would gain traction with the EU.

Theresa May has moved to reassure nationalists living in Northern Ireland that Brexit will not see the UK turn its back on its “unique and special relationship” with Ireland.

The Prime Minister insisted rights enshrined under the Good Friday peace accord, such as the right to claim Irish citizenship, would be protected after the exit from the European Union. Her direct message to the nationalist community in the Belfast-based Irish News, said: “No one voted to end the special ties between the UK and Ireland or to undermine the unique arrangements between Ireland and Northern Ireland which have underpinned the peace process and have been in place well before our membership of the EU.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Brokenshire also sought to reassure people that their customs proposals do not relate to the free movement of people between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

He said the Common Travel Agreement pre-dates EU membership and he wants to see that structure maintained.

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