Northern Ireland

Irish border: Technology 'only part of solution' after Brexit

A lorry passing road signs near the Irish border Image copyright PA
Image caption The Alternative Arrangements Technical panel includes 20 experts to advise them on technical solutions for the Irish border.

Technology is only part of the solution for the issue of the Irish border, a Fujitsu boss has said.

Frank Dunsmuir, a member of the Alternative Arrangements Technical Panel, was taking questions from Westminster's NI Affairs Committee.

Mr Dunsmuir explained on Wednesday that "technology is part of the answer".

"We are always aware that policies need to be set first, in terms of what procedures we need to adhere to," he added.

"Then on top of that, we can overlay the technology that would help that process."

The Alternative Arrangements technical panel was set up by Nicky Morgan and Greg Hands to try and find an alternative to the backstop.

The backstop is a position of last resort, to maintain a seamless border on the island of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal.

Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, asked the panel if they have found a solution to the backstop

Chair Shanker Singham said: "The alternative arrangements protocol is intended to supersede and make the backstop unnecessary. It would be almost like a 'front stop'."

Another member of the panel, legal expert Bertrand Rager, described the impact of a no-deal scenario on Northern Ireland.

He said: "Even if there was a no deal, we cannot imagine this situation would last longer than a couple of weeks. Because business cannot stand it. Business could not stand it," he said.

"Business would put pressure on both sides. Business is small farmers, small plumbers and multinationals. These people cannot have their supply chain suddenly blocked."

Image caption Ian Paisley told the panel that there is "a guillotine put on the Irish not to talk" about the issue of the border

Ian Paisley asked the panel about the refusal of the Irish government to meet with them.

It is understood there has been an instruction from the EU for them not to engage with the other side.

Mr Paisley said: "This is remarkable. At a point when we should be talking the most, there's a guillotine put on the Irish not to talk.

"So much for calls that they don't want a hard border, when they have hard headphones on they don't want to hear or talk."

Lady Sylvia Hermon asked the panel if there is enough time from publishing their report in July and leaving the EU on 31 October.

Chair Shanker Singham said: "I wish we'd started this two and a half years ago but we didn't, the government didn't."

The Alternative Arrangements Technical Panel will publish its full report next month.

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