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Border with Northern Ireland

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The UK Government has repeatedly stated that it wants a frictionless border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, however it has yet to make its plans in this regard clear. In the absence of clarity, several options have been mooted.

It was reported on 27 October that Pascal Lamy, former WTO head and ex-EU Trade Commissioner, considers a “frictionless” border with no infrastructure to be unrealistic.  Mr Lamy suggested a sea border between the island of Ireland and the United Kingdom. This would entail Northern Ireland having a special economic status or regulatory approach after Brexit.

It was reported on 6 November that James Brokenshire, the British Minister for Northern Ireland, has ruled out Northern Ireland staying in the EU Single Market or Customs Union, and has said that nothing should be done that undermines the integrity of the UK Single Market.

The UK Parliament recently heard from the head of Switzerland’s customs service, Christian Bock. Mr Bock said that he believed an invisible border was possible, using technology, intelligence and joint British-Irish mobile customs patrols. However he said that physical checks were unavoidable, either at the Border or elsewhere. Switzerland is not part of the EU, and as a result the Swiss customs service is, after the Swiss army, the biggest unit of the federal government, employing 5,000 customs officers with an annual budget €1.3 billion.

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