Prosperity UK’s Alternative Arrangements Commission has released an interim report laying out potential alternatives to the Irish border backstop.
The commission, chaired by Conservative MPs Nicky Morgan and Greg Hands, was established by Prosperity UK, an independent platform dedicated to optimising the UK’s global economic status after it leaves the EU. The report, titled ‘Alternative Arrangements for the Irish Border’ and described by prime ministerial hopeful Boris Johnson this morning as ‘brilliant’, aims to present solutions to post-Brexit border control between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland without implementing either a hard border – which would contravene the Good Friday Agreement – or the backstop currently laid out in Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, which would see the UK remain in a customs union agreement with the EU after its exit, with Northern Ireland also staying in a single market arrangement to minimise any friction with Ireland.
Alternative arrangements laid out in the commission’s report, designed to utilise existing technologies and policies, include:
- Carrying out sanitary tests on foods and livestock at points away from the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland;
- Implementing Special Economic Zones to avoid disruption of cross-border communities, for example between Londonderry in Northern Ireland and Donegal in the Republic of Ireland; and
- Establishing a multi-tiered Trusted Trader programme, reducing the need for customs inspections of businesses accredited under the programme.
The commission noted that, if the report’s recommendations are correctly implemented, the alternative arrangements for the Irish border should be fully in place within three years after Brexit.
The report states: ‘We believe that the recommendations contained within this report can be achieved, provided there is goodwill on all sides, quite quickly. Some recommendations such as the transit piece would be deliverable in months, as they are being used now – the time delay being only the time taken to negotiate the minor derogations for Island of Ireland trade. Some recommendations, such as the trusted trader programme recommendations have been achieved in other countries from much worse situations than the UK is in to an advanced state of the art programme in [two to three] years. We believe the Trusted Trader recommendations in this paper can be delivered in 12-15 months. Some longer term technological proposals which are not necessary to making the seamless border work immediately might take longer, but it is essential that work on them starts now.’