Northern Ireland

Creating hi-tech Irish border system 'won't be easy'

David Davis Image copyright PA
Image caption David Davis said nothing would be done that would jeopardise the Northern Ireland peace process

Brexit Secretary David Davis has said there is "quite a lot of design work to do" on a system to monitor goods crossing the Irish border.

He was giving evidence to a Westminster Committee on Wednesday.

Mr Davis said differences in excise duties on either side of the border are already dealt with in "a subtle and not highly visible way".

This is the approach the government has in mind for the future, he explained.

He acknowledged that creating a new customs system will "not be easy", and it will cost money and "a lot of work on technology" in order to maintain controls without a requirement for border posts.

But the Brexit Secretary expressed confidence that London and Dublin will solve the problem because both governments want to, and because the technology involved is better than it was 20 years ago.

Image caption The previous customs system was not dependent on new technology

He said officials from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Service (HMRC) and the Northern Ireland Office are already in discussions with their Irish counterparts with the intention of devising a tested system.

He mentioned the HMRC's existing "Trusted Trader" scheme as a potential model.

Mr Davis was adamant that the government is not "going to do anything which jeopardises the peace process".

'Strong emotional investment,

He noted that the European Commission also has "a strong emotional investment" in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr Davis told MPs that even though chief European negotiator Michel Barnier reiterated that there could be no formal Brexit negotiations ahead of the UK triggering Article 50, he has wanted to talk about Northern Ireland in meetings with UK ministers because of his personal commitment to the process.

The Brexit Secretary confirmed that both the UK and Ireland want to maintain the Common Travel Area which allows for the free movement of people between both jurisdictions.

Citizenship rights

He said the aim is to create a situation identical to the 1949 Ireland Act, which already gives effective citizenship rights to British and Irish people resident in either country.

Mr Davis says he does not foresee the European Commission raising objections to the maintenance of the Common Travel Area.

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