Belfast Telegraph

Brexit Committee chair sceptical that hard border is truly avoidable

By Colm Kelpie

House of Commons Brexit committee chairman Hilary Benn has said he's none the wiser about how a hard border in Ireland can be avoided even with the completion of the first phase of the Brexit talks.

The Labour MP, who is visiting Dublin today, said the deal achieved in December - which promises full regulatory alignment between the UK and Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit - was a form of words that satisfied Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and DUP leader Arlene Foster.

"Because it made clear to the DUP that Northern Ireland would not be separated out from the rest of the United Kingdom, and by the same time using the words 'full alignment', and once again expressing commitment to a border with no checks," said Mr Benn.

"How do you reconcile that aim with the red lines that the Government has set, in particular this determination to leave the customs union and the single market?

"That's why some people have described it as a fudge. Others have talked about kicking the can down the road.

"We will get to the point where people will say: 'Tell us how are you actually going to achieve that given that you have given this cast iron commitment?'."

Mr Benn is due to speak at a Brexit conference today organised by Dublin City University.

President Michael D Higgins will also address the event, along with Tanaiste Simon Coveney.

It comes after Brexit Secretary David Davis told the Brexit Committee that the techniques used at the border between Canada and the United States can be improved on in the UK/Ireland case.

"It works. It can be made to work with goodwill on all sides it can be made to work. We don't just have goodwill, we have got massive, mutual economic interest," Mr Davis said.

He said the full regulatory alignment component of the December deal was added in by the Government here as it "wanted to feel secure about all outcomes". Mr Davis also said he had a "moral responsibility" to ensure that the Republic is not disadvantaged by Brexit.

The Brexit Secretary also told MPs that Britain will not seek to harmonise regulations with the EU after leaving, but will aim instead for "outcome equivalence".

Belfast Telegraph

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