The Tory government is reportedly working on plans with the European Union (EU) which could keep Northern Ireland locked inside the bloc, with a large “buffer zone” on the Irish border to minimize customs checks.
The province, which will share Britain’s only land border with the EU after Brexit, would be forced to follow both EU and British customs and trade regulations, as the EU has argued there is no way for it to leave the bloc and trade freely with both.
Brexit Secretary David Davis is also plotting a 10 mile-wide buffer area, spanning the entire 301-mile length of Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland, The Sun reports.
Asked about the plan, a DExEU spokesman said: “We have set out two viable future customs arrangements with the EU and work is ongoing to refine these.
“Both of these would deliver on our commitments to ensure UK-EU trade is as frictionless as possible, avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, preserve the integrity of the UK’s internal market and enable us to establish an independent international trade policy.”
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority government at Westminster, will almost certainly be opposed to the new proposals, as they have said they will not accept Northern Ireland leaving the bloc on different terms to the rest of the United Kingdom.
EU Prez Refuses to Back Down on Plot to ‘Annex’ Northern Ireland Before Crunch Meeting With May https://t.co/o8Z7r77ZEP
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 1, 2018
The EU has already rejected two plans for the Irish border put forward by Britain: a customs arrangement in which the whole country would “mirror” EU rules, and “maximum facilitation”, or MaxFac, which would allow Britain to diverge and use technology to keep the border open.
The bloc was accused of trying to “annex” Northern Ireland earlier this year after they appeared to suggest the only way for the United Kingdom to keep the Irish border open was to leave Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and create a border in the Irish Sea.
Filmed as part of a Vice News documentary released this week, the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said: “The British have been moving forward with several ideas.
“They have two proposals which are being debated by British ministers. Neither of these proposals are operational or acceptable to us.”
Mr Davis’s latest plan has been dubbed “Max Fac 2”. A source close to the Brexit negotiations told The Sun: “Max Fac 2 is tremendously complicated, but it’s at least something the cabinet can unite around.
“Persuading the DUP and then the EU to agree to it will be a different job altogether and, let’s be honest, it will be very hard work.”
Rees-Mogg: EU Using Irish Border Issue to Keep UK Locked in Single Market https://t.co/ZdTfU6QFFm
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 15, 2018