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Alternative arrangements to Brexit backstop can ensure no hard border, insists DUP

Plea: Diane Dodds
Plea: Diane Dodds

By Staff Reporter

The DUP has said alternatives can be found to the backstop and the controversial measure isn't the only way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

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MEP Diane Dodds last night insisted that the pre-screening of goods, trusted trader schemes, and technology meant the backstop wasn't needed.

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken called for an end to the stand-off over the backstop and warned that if the row continued to gather pace a hard border was more likely.

Mrs Dodds said: "There is still time for a deal. We are continuing to work with the Government to reach a sensible deal as we exit the EU.

"It is time for the Irish Government to recognise the impact of no-deal on its access to the GB market and encourage the EU negotiators to take a more progressive and constructive approach in negotiations."

She called on the Ulster Farmers' Union to use its position on the all-Ireland Brexit forum to press Dublin to "take a more reasonable approach".

Mr Aiken noted that the past week had seen "a repeat of every single argument in favour of and against the backstop".

He said: "I and other unionists oppose the backstop because it undermines the Belfast Agreement and bypasses the principle of consent. Others within nationalism have a different view.

"The bottom line is that as long as this stand-off continues, we edge closer to a no-deal Brexit.

"There is only one way to solve this and that's to get into negotiations behind closed doors."

Sinn Fein yesterday insisted there was no alternative to the backstop. "The Irish backstop is a key part of the withdrawal agreement agreed between the British Government and the EU," a party spokesperson said.

"Boris Johnson voted in favour of this agreement and the backstop it contains. The EU have repeatedly made it clear that the backstop is not open for renegotiation."

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said: "The search for so-called alternative arrangements is like a quest for fool's gold.

"This is a distraction from the Government facing up to the real choices. The only way a hard border can be avoided is through sufficient regulatory and customs alignment."

TUV leader Jim Allister said: "The EU claim that unless the UK signs up to the backstop to avoid a border they will impose a border. That is a totally illogical position. The UK has said it will not impose a border. Dublin says it will not impose a border. Who is going to build this border?"

Meanwhile, a Tory MP has claimed a solution has already been found to solve the backstop problem.

Greg Hands, co-chair of the think-tank Prosperity UK's Alternative Arrangements Commission, said it has drawn up a series of "administrative and technological measures" which negated the need for a backstop.

Writing in the Daily Mail, he said the proposals include a tiered "trusted trader" scheme, similar to that used between the US and Canada, which would "cut down paperwork and avoid routine customs checks" at the border.

The commission also recommended carrying out checks on food and animals away from the border and "enhanced economic zones" straddling the border between Londonderry and Donegal and Newry and Dundalk, with "tax breaks" and a "free trade zone" to avoid duties on goods.

However, Mr Hands admitted that the arrangements could not be set up in time for the current October 31 exit date and would take up to three years to deploy.

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