Belfast Telegraph

'UK doesn't need same laws and regulations as EU'

By Tom Peck

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling yesterday insisted that the UK will not need the same laws and regulations as the rest of the European Union to avoid a hard border with the Republic after Brexit.

Negotiations with the EU are currently on a knife-edge, chiefly over the issue of the Irish border, with no agreement yet over how Northern Ireland can leave the EU's single market and the customs union and keep a frictionless border with the Republic.

Mr Grayling told the BBC's Today Programme: "Plenty of countries have what you call regulatory equivalence where in one country you have anti-money laundering law and you have another in another country.

"They are not the same, they have a similar goal and each recognises the integrity of the other to stamp out money laundering.

"We don't have to have, and we've never said we will, and we don't want to have a situation where in future our laws are identical to the European Union.

"There will be areas where we do do things in a similar way.

"There will be areas where we don't do things in a similar way.

"That's all the Prime Minister was seeking to achieve to make sure we can ensure trade flows as freely as possible across the borders."

Various solutions have been proposed, in which goods could be customs checked at the point of arrival or departure rather than at the border.

Or the same regulations could be maintained specifically in areas of high cross-border activity, such as energy.

But one such area is food and agriculture, with Irish and Northern Irish milk and beef products regularly crossing the border.

The UK hopes to sign new free trade agreements after Brexit, notably with the United States, and food products would almost certainly have to form part of these deals.

Mr Grayling has previously indicated that issues with tariffs on imported food after Brexit could be resolved by British farmers growing more.

Leading Brexiteer Tory MP Bernard Jenkin also told the programme the UK should not give up on its goal of "regulatory autonomy."

"I don't think we should walk away, but I do think we should take a firm line, as the Prime Minister did earlier this week," he said.

"We shouldn't be allowing ourselves to be bullied into promising more and more money, or giving up the goal of regulatory autonomy, or being dragged into a long period of uncertainty without clarity on what we are getting at the end of it."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicated that regulatory alignment only need apply to specific areas, such those involving north-south activity, in a pointer that this is the path down which talks are progressing.

But the DUP has suggested it will not compromise, and will not tolerate any different status between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

One senior DUP figure is reported to have told The Sun: "This is a battle of who blinks first - and we've cut off our eyelids."

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