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Former IFI chairman's plan to break Brexit border impasse

Under William McCarter's plan, current crossborder arrangements would remain in place after Brexit.
Seamus McKinney

One of Ireland's most successful businessmen has put forward an eight-point plan which he believes will break the Brexit Irish border impasse.

Former head of the International Fund for Ireland, William McCarter proposes that the EU agrees a “special customs union and free trade area. In return for this the UK would pay £10 billion per annum to the EU with no “upfront divorce payment.”

From Derry originally but living at Fahan in County Donegal, Mr McCarter was chief executive of his family textile firm, McCarter and Co Ltd before combining the firm with US business, Fruit of the Loom. From 1987 to 2005, he was chief executive of Fruit of the Loom, the largest employer at the time in Counties Derry and Donegal.

Mr McCarter was one of the founders of the hugely successful Cooleys Distillery and is a director of cold store operator, Norish plc.

“I together with 3,000 colleagues ended up sending 70 million Fruit of the Loom T shirts and sweat shirts across a very hard Donegal/Derry/Londonderry border each year right across the wider EU," he said.

“Together we managed to make this Fruit of the Loom cross border enterprise work very successfully but not one of us want to return to that border or those days. I am sure all 3,000 of us (former Fruit of the Loom staff) and many more wish to see the existing arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic being maintained and the peace process built on and developed for all the people of Northern Ireland and the EU,” he said.

Under the eight-point 'McCarter Plan,' he proposed:

• The EU would agree to negotiate a special Customs Union (CU) and Free Trade Area (FTA) with the UK.

• In return the UK wold agree to pay £10 billion sterling per annum on a permanent basis to the EU.

• There would be no upfront divorce payment.

• The UK corporate and financial sectors might agree to pay the £10 billion by means of a levy to alleviate any burden on tax payers.

• While the special CU and FTA was being negotiated, all existing arrangements would remain as at present. When the negotiations were complete, all existing trading arrangements between the EU and UK would remain as they are at present.

• As the new CU and FTA were “special,” it would be possible to alter existing rules to ensure the UK could control its immigration policy and would be free to see new trade deals throughout the world. However, on identifying such deals, the UK would endeavour to include the EU in each free trade deal and no deal would be concluded by the UK until the EU was included.

• A new UK EU court would be set up to adjudicate disputes in regard to the special CU and FTA area.

• The existing common travel and work area between the UK and the Republic and all existing reciprocal rights and benefits back to 1922 and from the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement would be maintained.

Mr McCarter believed that his plan would ensure the current cross border arrangement could continue.

“Furthermore, I do believe it would reinvigorate the peace process in Northern Ireland and give everybody in Northern Ireland and the Republic new hope for a peaceful and prosperous future,” the Donegal businessman added.

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