Northern Ireland news

Civil servants 'plan for border checks between north and Britain'

Civil servants from the north have drawn up plans for post-Brexit customs checks at ports and airports, reports suggest. Picture by Victoria Jones, Press Association

CIVIL servants have drawn up plans to create customs checks on trade between Northern Ireland and Britain after Brexit, according to reports.

The Guardian reported last night that civil servants from the north had drafted a back-up plan to set up customs checks at ports and airports in Northern Ireland.

The paper – drawn up by senior officials working on Brexit in the north – argues that "ports and airports provide helpful opportunities for surveillance that assist with risk management even when they do not have any of the visible paraphernalia of a border".

The DUP has repeatedly rejected any customs arrangement which would separate the north from Britain.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted there should be no hard border in Ireland while also rejecting any attempt to keep the UK within the customs union and the single market.

The EU has warned any post-Brexit border solution must be compatible with the Good Friday Agreement but must also not undermine the single market and customs union.

Ian Murray MP, leading supporter of the People's Vote campaign which wants a public vote on a final Brexit deal, said it was understandable that Northern Ireland civil servants were looking at alternatives to a hard land border.

"But a hard border in the Irish Sea is no more compatible with the Good Friday Agreement than one on the land," he said.

"We were promised that there would be no hard border because of Brexit and if that pledge is to be broken it is essential we have a people's vote on the final Brexit deal so we can vote on what's really proposed and not on the fantasy promises we were sold."

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