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Governments 'must begin consultations over border's future'

By Margaret Canning

Early consultations must take place on dealing with the movement of goods and people across the border post-Brexit, a major all-island business body has said.

Liam Lynch, president of Chartered Accountants Ireland, claimed a hard Brexit appeared likely, with the UK out of the single market and customs union.

"This will be extremely challenging for the island of Ireland," he added. "We need to work now to establish how the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will work and how it can cause the least amount of economic disruption."

He also told how he was encouraged by indications that "some type of e-border or virtual border" could be set up, but added that "significant" consultation should now take place.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Prime Minister Theresa May said they envisaged a "seamless and frictionless" border.

Earlier this week, MPs voted by a majority of 498 to 114 in favour of a bill to start the process of leaving the EU.

Mr Lynch last night addressed the Chartered Accountants Ireland annual dinner. He said a solution to the border issue required "all the talent we possess on this island and beyond to come up with the most innovative and practical solutions".

"We need to find innovative ways to retain the common travel area with the UK, while at the same time maintaining and strengthening our position within the EU, because that is where our future lies," he added.

"We need to be open-minded to practical solutions which will respect the UK's desire for border controls, but also allow businesses to survive and thrive."

He also said chartered accountants should make their voices heard: "We need to bring these issues to the table ahead of Article 50 being invoked.

"We need to take a lead position with the other 27 EU States, the EU Commission and the EU Parliament to represent the concerns and opportunities of Irish business."

While the Taoiseach and PM have said they want a frictionless border, a former head of the European Commission's customs procedures unit has said strict border controls will be required to avoid penalties from the EU.

Michael Lux told a parliamentary committee that Northern Ireland could remain in the customs union for up to 10 years after Brexit to ensure border controls could be implemented.

He also said new arrangements would be needed to control goods being brought across the border by both private citizens and companies.

Asked by MP Lady Sylvia Hermon if a "seamless border" could be achieved, he replied: "If you define seamless as no border controls, then the answer is no, at least for Ireland as it is obliged to apply EU law."

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