Belfast Telegraph

MPs say decisions on Brexit and Irish border 'needed as matter of urgency'

Urgent decisions are needed over the impact of Brexit on the Irish border, a committee of MPs said.

The effect on areas such as customs operations will be "severe" without specific solutions to the complex issues affecting the island, the Home Affairs Committee said.

The Irish border is one of the key issues under discussion during EU exit talks in Brussels.

The committee said: "Decisions on the way forward are needed as a matter of urgency including on infrastructure improvements, systems and capacity."

Witnesses giving evidence to the committee were clear that the Northern Ireland border presents particular challenges for post-Brexit customs arrangements.

In January Jack Semple, policy director at the Road Haulage Association, told the group of MPs the companies he represented struggled to see how the proposed models for post-Brexit customs arrangements could work on the island of Ireland and that "we cannot see... an easy solution".

He said the problem was exacerbated because "the economic integration of trade" between Northern Ireland and the Republic "is at a far more advanced level than it is between the UK and continental Europe".

In unrelated proceedings recently, Brexit Secretary David Davis told the Committee on Exiting the EU that "one of my aims in this is to try to get an outcome that does not do harm to Ireland".

He confirmed that it remained the Government's intention to ensure that there is no physical border and no infrastructure at the border.

He also pointed out that Ireland is the EU country most dependent on the UK for trade with a value of "about a one billion euro a week" in both directions, and through the UK to the continent.

Separately, a leaked European Commission document has suggested that the Republic is now pushing hard for concrete reassurance on the border question ahead of the crucial EU leaders' summit in December at which Theresa May hopes to gain a green light for trade talks to begin.

Along with the question of expat citizens' rights and the UK's "divorce bill", the Irish border is a key issue in the first stage of Brexit talks, on which "sufficient progress" must be made before the leaders of the remaining 27 EU states will give the go-ahead for trade talks.

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