Lawmakers from the UK’s Labour Party have termed the government’s negotiation’s approach as ideas which havent been really fleshed out.
In an early attempt to resolve one of its complex aspects of exiting the European Union, Britain aims to have no border posts between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Typically, 30,000 people cross the 500 kilometer border on a daily basis without having to go through the hassles of immigration checks.
The development underscores Britain move to tighten emigration controls without inflaming tension in the region which saw nearly 3,600 people killed before arriving at a peace agreement in 1998.
In a paper due to be published on Wednesday, the British government stated in a paper that it wants a seamless and frictionless frontier without “physical border infrastructure and border posts” which would allow the free flow of goods but would restrict the free flow of emigration.
“Both sides needs to show flexibility and imagination when it comes to the border issue in Northern Ireland,” said a source in the British government
The country has put forward two options for future customs arrangements with the EU: while the first option completely dismantles all forms of customs at the border, the second details a ‘highly-streamlined’ customs checks.
The proposal by the British government met with scepticism from many of its former EU partners, with one EU official describing the idea of an invisible border as ‘fantasy’.
“We have some very clear principles. Top of our list is to agree upfront no physical border infrastructure — that would mean a return to the border posts of the past and is completely unacceptable to the UK,” said a source in the British government.
On its part, the European Union has made lucidly clear that it would be futile for Britain to expect access to EU’s single market bloc after Brexit. In July, EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier had said “frictionless trade” with the Britain and EU after Brexit was not possible.
The British government however wants to have the cake and eat it too: it said it wants to maintain a Common Travel Area, a pact that allows free movement between the United Kingdom and Ireland for British and Irish citizens while rejecting the notion of a customs border in the Irish Sea that separates England, Wales and Scotland from Ireland and Northern Ireland as “not constitutionally or economically viable.”
As per official data, Northern Ireland sold goods worth $3.47 billion (2.7 billion pounds) into Ireland in 2015. Many businesses in Northern Ireland have complex supply chains that involve crossing the border multiple times during the production process.
“Protecting the Peace Process is crucial and it must not become a bargaining chip in the negotiations,” said the Irish government in a statement, in reference to the Good Friday Agreement which was signed on April 10, 1998 following multi-party talks which ultimately led to the creation of an elected assembly in Belfast.
This border issue is one of the three priority issues that the European Union insists that must be resolved and dealt with during the opening rounds of talks before negotiations can move on to Britain’s future relationship with the bloc.
The first two rounds of negotiations in Brussels have had somewhat limited progress, with sceptics saying the British government was unprepared for them as its proposals lacked specifics. This means that the next phase in negotiations could be delayed unless British Prime Minister Theresa May’s team come armed with more details.
“They don’t outline how a frictionless or seamless border can be achieved when the UK leaves the EU and won’t reassure anybody about the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland,” said Conor McGinn, a lawmaker from the Labour Party.