Belfast Telegraph

Plans revealed for post-Brexit electronic border system

By Colm Kelpie

Officials in the Republic are working to develop a post-Brexit electronic customs system where vehicles and other hauliers will be able to cross the border from Northern Ireland without having to stop.

It's understood that informal contacts have already taken place between Irish customs officials and their counterparts in the UK about the possibility of developing an integrated, joined-up electronic border system.

Its a possibility that would be a welcome outcome for companies who regularly trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The head of the Republic's customs division said staff were at the early stages of a scoping exercise, and that the plan could take a number of years to fully build. It's understood around 10 staff are involved.

Anthony Buckley, deputy director general of Irish Customs with the Revenue Commissioners, said the aim was to develop a system whereby a truck could drive from one end of the island to the other without having to stop.

"Even if there's a free-trade agreement (between the UK and EU), we'll still need to know what is being traded, what's crossing the border," Mr Buckley told a Brexit briefing organised by the Irish Exporters' Association (IEA).

"Our design challenge, as I like to term it, is that a truck should be able to drive from Cork to Belfast or from Holyhead to Galway without stopping. That would be ideal and we want to achieve that.

"We're starting the design process at the moment. We've already started the scoping and we will be building, but it will take us two or three years to build."

Revenue's aim is to ensure that information about a truck's load, for example, could be put into a computer on the Republic's side of the border, and then be automatically conveyed to the authorities in Northern Ireland.

The movement of the truck could then be monitored in an electronic camera system. Customs clearance facilities would have to be provided, Revenue believes, but they don't necessarily have to be at the border.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has moved to allay fears of a return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Speaking following a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr Kenny insisted that he would not allow a scenario involving the erection of "customs posts every mile along the road".

Revenue is looking at the possibility of using existing tax offices in the border areas.

But at the border itself, vehicle examination areas may need to be established. Spot-checks of vehicles may have to take place to combat smuggling and fraud.

Belfast Telegraph

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