Responding to the publication of the Government’s Northern Ireland and Ireland Position Paper, Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said:
“The IoD welcomes this paper from the Government addressing the issues which will need to resolved along the Irish border as a result of Brexit. It is a significant step forward but unsurprisingly throws up even more questions about how much flexibility and imagination will be needed to overcome some very fundamental challenges.
“The paper proposes having no border checks along the UK’s only land border with the EU (Ireland) but equally no border checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The implication seems that in order to remove the bureaucracy of customs inspections businesses will instead be burdened with greater bureaucracy on in-work immigration checks. This would not be welcomed by SMEs who will see it as government giving with one hand and taking away with the other. While we welcome the commitment to maintain the Common Travel Area, the CTA only covers UK and Irish citizens, not EU migrants working on the island Ireland. This is a concern for business because 10% of IoD Northern Ireland members have EU staff who live on one side but work on the other side of the border.
“While the prioritisation of an interim solution for maintaining a shared external tariff is extremely important, alongside a wider association with or replication of the EU’s Customs Union, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is for the UK and EU to reach early agreement on regulatory alignment for a transitional period to address all of the other issues which would warrant new customs controls. The Government crucially acknowledges the need for this on measures relating to agri-food – particularly importance to the all-island economy – but this will apply to many other sectors as well.
“The degree of regulatory cooperation needed in the long-term between the UK and EU, to keep customs and border controls from being spontaneously reintroduced, would be unprecedented. Declarations of equivalence can be unilaterally revoked at any time by either side, and the UK will need to bear this in mind as it develops an independent trade policy. While full triangulation of trade policy between the UK, EU and third countries is unlikely, a system of close collaboration to allow Brussels and London to keep each other informed of trade developments will be essential. We would also urge the Government to exercise caution in how it approaches trade negotiations with new countries during the transition period.”