MPs find no tech solution to maintain 'soft' Irish border

The search for an agreement over the Irish border continues as the possibility of a tech based solution is ruled out. Both sides agreed to a ‘soft’ border, however no practical solution has yet been found.

Map of Irish border
There is no technical solution to support the UK’s contention that the post-Brexit border between the Republic and Northern Ireland could remain free of physical checkpoints, according to a report on Friday by an all-party committee of MPs.

Finding a solution to the Irish post-Brexit border

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said it had been unable to find border solutions anywhere in the world that would enable the current frictionless border to continue – one of the European Union’s basic demands in Brexit negotiations.Andrew Murrison, a Conservative MP who chairs the committee, said, “Brexit’s success or otherwise hinges on the UK-Ireland border. Everyone agrees that the border after Brexit must look and feel as it does today.“However, we have heard no evidence to suggest that there is currently a technical solution that would avoid infrastructure at the border. Furthermore, we have no detail on how checks on goods and people will be undertaken away from the border.”
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The ‘soft’ border agreement

The UK signed up in December to a European Commission Joint Report agreeing to retain a ‘soft’ border on the island of Ireland but practical difficulties about how this might be achieved have dogged subsequent negotiations. Three days of talks aimed at trying to find a solution began in Brussels on Friday.Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has maintained that a technical solution – similar, he suggested, to the London congestion charge – could be employed. But after an exhaustive inquiry, which included quizzing customs officials, politicians and people living along the Irish border as well as studying how the borders operated between the EU and Switzerland and Norway, the MPs concluded no such technical solution existed.
“We have seen no evidence to suggest that, right now, an invisible border is possible,” said the report.Dr Murrison added, “It is now clear that a significant transition period is essential for the options in December’s Joint Report to be worked through. It is equally clear that regulatory and tariff alignment will be required during transition to avoid any hardening of the border before a definitive low-friction solution can be determined.”

No possibility of an open border across Ireland

The committee also ruled out the idea, suggested by the Brussels, – of an open border across Ireland and a tariff border along the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. “This would create a costly barrier to trade with Northern Ireland’s largest market and would be incompatible with the spirit and intent of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,” said the report.It added that the UK government would not have time to introduce invisible customs arrangements before Brexit and might to remain in a customs union and single market through the transition period. The MPs said British ministers should develop an innovative system capable of delivering customs compliance without “ineffective and unworkable” physical infrastructure.
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