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Brexit chief Davis hasn't visited Irish border areas since his appointment


Brexit Secretary David Davis

Brexit Secretary David Davis

Proposals for a planned e-border have been criticised

Proposals for a planned e-border have been criticised

Brexit Secretary David Davis

Brexit Secretary David Davis has not visited the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic since taking office - and his department can't say if any plans are in place to do so.

Although the UK government is expected to set out proposals for an e-border this week, the minister responsible for the Brexit negotiations hasn't been to the border in the 14 months since the referendum vote - despite the hugely sensitive and controversial nature of the issue.

Mr Davis has visited both Belfast and Dublin, but not specifically the border area.

The Department for Exiting the European Union did not respond to questions when asked if any senior officials from the department had visited the border.

It comes as a former customs officer in Northern Ireland claimed imposing an effective technological customs border between north and south would be a "mission impossible".

Gerry Temple worked for HM Revenue and Customs for 16 years until the 1990s and does not believe it would be possible to effectively use cameras and other sophisticated technology to police the border.

"This thing about the electronic surveillance, if they think that professional smugglers will allow certain routes to have cameras installed on them then they're very much mistaken.

"Those guys will be in cutting down whatever is installed," he said.

Mr Temple previously told BBC Radio Foyle that it would cost billions to monitor the maze of roads which now criss-cross the border.

"To put in a manifest electronically [for commercial operators] and say they're bringing x, y and z across, that is doable. That could be achieved," he added yesterday.

"But that is for legitimate businesses. You're also putting extra costs on to legitimate businesses. There are so many small and medium-sized businesses that cross the border many times a day, and to put restrictions on them will be a financial ruin for them."

A Brexit deal to allow free movement of people between Ireland and the UK with a "light-touch customs regime" is expected to be proposed by the British government.

Prime Minister Theresa May will this week publish a policy paper on Anglo-Irish relations which suggests the two countries could adopt a 'Schengen area'.

This would allow Irish citizens to work freely in the UK and British citizens to work freely in the Republic.

Citizens of other EU countries could access the UK over the Irish border but would not be able to work in Britain without a work permit.

The idea is being carefully studied by Irish officials but does create a border which Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he does not want.

Yesterday, Fianna Fail poured scorn on Mrs May's plan.

The party's Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly said he does not believe this will be a workable solution if the UK leaves the customs union.

He said if tariffs are introduced then every milk truck that crosses the border will have to be monitored.

He also suggested such a move will drive criminality in the border region.

"Technology is not going to solve this problem.

"You can design it so as not to cause huge intrusion on day one but what happens when the smuggling starts?" he asked.

"You can put up high-tech cameras and the new Provos will come and chop them down.

"Then you can put up something stronger and they will blow it up."

Belfast Telegraph