Boris Johnson will set out Brexit plan to EU in next 24 hours

30 September 2019, 23:51

Boris Johnson's plans would see customs posts built on either side of the Irish border
Boris Johnson's plans would see customs posts built on either side of the Irish border. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The prime minister's plans include setting up customs posts on both sides of the Irish border as an alternative to the backstop.

Boris Johnson's proposals will create an all-Ireland "economic zone" that would accommodate the flow of agricultural and food products between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Customs clearance sites, or customs posts, would be created between five and ten miles back from the border itself so that checks did not take place at the actual land frontier.

There could be as many as 10 of these sites on the island of Ireland with larger companies able to apply for Authorised Economic Operator status to minimise border disruption.

No 10 hopes this will keep Northern Ireland outside the EU's customs union for industrial goods and agri-food products.

However, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the proposals "represent yet another failure of the government's negotiating strategy."

He tweeted: "If Boris Johnson had spent any time listening to businesses and communities in Northern Ireland, he would know that these proposals are utterly unworkable.

"They would place an enormous administrative burden on businesses and rely on technology that does not yet exist.

"Crucially, if true, they represent a rowing back on the commitments made to the people of Northern Ireland two years ago that there would be no return to a hard border or related checks or controls."

Goods moving from customs posts on one side of the border to the other could be monitored using GPS or other tracking devices placed on trucks, lorries and vans.

The proposals, reportedly seen by RTE, would allow traders two choices: lodging a custom declaration on either side of the border, or signing up to a "transit scheme".

In the "transit" system an exporter would be registered as a "consigner" and the importer a "consignee" with a financial institution offering a bond to ensure customs or excise duties and VAT are all paid.

These plans are the substance of the non-papers that have been discussed with the European Commission but have not yet been shared with all member states.

Fianna Fail Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers criticised the UK's proposals on social media.

She tweeted: "This is effectively a border with a buffer zone and is clearly not a satisfactory alternative to the backstop. With 30 days now to go until Brexit we need to see sensible workable solutions that ensure no hard border on the island of Ireland. What about regulations on goods?"

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the reported proposals fail to meet the UK Government's commitments under the December 2017 joint report and are "unacceptable".

He said: "The content of these proposals fails to meet the British Government's obligations under the December 2017 joint report to avoid physical infrastructure, checks and controls at the border.

"It doesn't matter if it's a mile, five miles or 10 miles away, the presence of physical checks will create economic and security challenges that are unacceptable."