Northern Ireland

Brexit: Irish border plan 'would only last for months'

A Northern Ireland border sign Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The government has said it will not impose checks or tariffs on goods coming into Northern Ireland from the Republic in the event of a no-deal Brexit

A no-deal Brexit plan for the Irish border would only be sustainable for a matter of months, the former head of the government's Border Delivery Group has said.

The UK has said in the event of no deal it will not impose checks or tariffs on goods entering NI from the Republic.

Karen Wheeler said the "assumption" was that could be sustained for 12 months.

"What was not clear was what happens then... I think the assumption was some sort of special deal."

She told a committee of MPs she was "not sighted" on any policy thinking about what such a deal would look like.

The government has promised it will not have any new infrastructure on the border even if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Its border plan has become a source of controversy among farmers and food producers.

While Irish imports would continue to enter Northern Ireland tariff free, goods heading in the other direction would face steep tariffs.

'Not willing to talk'

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) says that zero-tariff import policy should be reversed.

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Media captionBBC News NI's political reporter Jayne McCormack explains why the border is an issue

Ms Wheeler also said it was the government's working assumption that the Irish government would have to carry out food standards checks and apply customs control on cross-border trade.

The Irish government has acknowledged that it would have to carry out those checks if there is no deal, but has not explained how or where they would take place.

Ms Wheeler said it had been difficult for Her Majesty's Customs to get any detail from their Irish counterparts.

"Officials and ministers were not willing or able to talk to us about no-deal arrangements," she said.

She said in the run up to the last Brexit deadline there appeared to be an assumption in the Republic of Ireland that "no deal would not happen because it could not happen and therefore it wasn't clear that there was a plan at all".

She added that she was sure there was a plan now.

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