Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland civil servants consider Brexit border solution

Welcome to Northern Ireland sign Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The UK and EU have agreed there should be no hardening of the Irish border

A Brexit border solution which would involve checks on some goods coming into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK has been considered by civil servants.

A paper, produced by the NI Civil Service, discusses a concept of 'green' and 'red' channels at ports.

Goods moving through red channels would be subject to checks.

The paper notes there is a "very simple point" that loading onto a ship already involves "a pause in movement".

The details of the paper were first reported by the Guardian.

The BBC has also seen the relevant paper which has the status of a draft discussion document.

Its purpose is described as considering ways of managing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland within the constraints set by the UK and EU.

The UK and EU have agreed there should be no hardening of the Irish border.

The UK government has also said there will be no new barriers to trade within the UK.

The paper notes that if the UK leaves the single market and customs union that will create a customs and regulatory border.

It goes on to consider if the consequences of that outcome can be managed at ports and airports rather than the land border.

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It states: "The very simple and important practical point is that loading on to a ship or aeroplane always involves both a pause in movement and some checks of 'entitlement to board' - obviously neither of these apply at the land border.

"Pragmatic extension of a present reality, with the lightest possible touch required to manage risk, seems infinitely preferable to 'a return to the border of the past'."

The DUP are firmly opposed to any arrangement which creates 'a border in the Irish Sea'.

The paper addresses this saying: "Concern that a model without a land border would imply a border in the Irish Sea could be addressed by providing a 'green channel' for goods moving between NI and GB, so that there need be no check or constraint on movement."

It suggests that, in order to meet EU concerns, goods coming from the rest of the UK or rest of the world which may not meet EU single market standards would be "fully subject to red channel checks" at Northern Ireland ports and airports.

'Robust processes'

In some cases, such as food products, it could mean goods being prohibited from entering Northern Ireland.

A parallel system would apply meaning goods of Irish origin, which are being shipped to Great Britain via Northern Ireland, would be subject to 'red channel' checks at the port of exit.

The paper emphasises that for the system to work there would need to be robust administrative and risk management processes.

It says: "In reality the processing of documentation and information is much more important in respect of freight transport than the channels concept."

A government spokesperson declined to comment on the paper on the grounds that it had not been published and was "not a UK government policy document".

She said: "Our policy is clear - we are committed to ensuring there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and to ensuring the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland's businesses to the whole of the UK's internal market."

"We have set out our preferred customs models to enable trade to remain as frictionless as possible."

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