A plan to bring in border checks on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK at ports and airports after Brexit has been drafted by civil servants, it has been reported.
The Guardian reports the proposal has been drafted as a backup plan in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
A leaked paper shows that officials have been working on the blueprint “to be deployed as necessary in the negotiation process.”
The plan is described as being preferable to a hard land border in the island of Ireland and the risk of a return to violence.
European Union negotiators have already rejected two proposals put forward by Prime Minister Theresa May to avoid a hard border.
A “customs partnership” in which the UK would collect duties on the EU’s behalf for goods that were destined for the EU and a “highly streamlined customs arrangement” which would combine “trusted trader” schemes with technology.
The paper was drawn up by senior officials working on Brexit in the Northern Ireland executive. It argues that “ports and airports provide helpful opportunities for surveillance that assist with risk management even when they do not have any of the visible paraphernalia of a border”.
The leaked document say there may be a need to require traders between Northern Ireland and Great Britain to provide information ahead of time for the plan to work.
The document adds that a major test to the proposals would be whether it was “perceived politically as in effect creating a hard border with the UK (or between Ireland and the rest of the EU)."
The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, has previously said that checks on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would be “economically catastrophic” for the province’s economy.
A government spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph: “Our policy is clear – we are committed to ensuring there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and to ensuring the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK’s internal market. We have set out our preferred customs models to enable trade to remain as frictionless as possible.”