Northern Ireland

Brexit: 'New checks developing' to avoid hard border

A lorry passing road signs near the Irish border Image copyright PA

A senior EU official has said new ways of checking EU product standards are being worked on to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

European Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen was giving more details of the EU's no-deal planning.

The EU has strict rules for checking imports of animals and food products at its borders.

But Mr Katainen said: "We need to find new ways to check compliance of our product standards.

"This work is continuing. I'm sure we will manage to finalise the process by the time it is needed."

Mr Katainen has responsibility for health and food safety in the EU.

He said: "When the UK leaves the EU, it will be confronted with an obstacle we got rid of a long time ago: borders.

"Borders are not there to add red tape or slow things down.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Jyrki Katainen said EU countries were setting up border inspection posts.

"They are there to ensure that the food we eat is not a danger for our citizens and to protect our animals and plants.

"Member states are setting up border inspection posts and the commission is swiftly approving these."

EU rules specify that inspection posts must be located in the immediate vicinity of the point of entry.

Mr Katainen was pressed on what that would mean for the Irish border.

He said that any product checks in Ireland would be "as much as possible away from the border" and that "extra technical and financial resources" would be made available to Ireland.

He did not completely rule out the possibility of border checks and did not elaborate on the "new ways" which are being worked on.

'Awkward issues'

The Irish foreign minister has said there is "no way" Ireland could reciprocate the UK's government plan for the border.

The UK plan means there would be no tariffs, checks or controls on Irish goods entering Northern Ireland in event of no deal.

Mr Coveney said the EU's "third country" rules would have to be applied on goods coming from Northern Ireland.

He said that in discussions with European Commission it was becoming clear "what we can and can't do but there are awkward issues".

He repeated the Irish government's position that the best way to avoid a harder border in a no-deal scenario is for Northern Ireland to continue to align with EU rules.

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