Hard border in Ireland 'avoidable' insists UK Government
Ireland map - PA
The return of border posts in Northern Ireland could be avoided as part of a new "highly streamlined customs arrangement" with the EU, a UK Government position paper has said.
The publication, due to be published in full later, is one of a number of bargaining positions set up by ministers as talks with EU negotiators continue over Britain's exit from the bloc.
A return to the security arrangements which were in place before the Good Friday Agreement would be "completely unacceptable", it says.
“Under a new customs partnership, where we align our customs approaches, there would be no customs border at all between the UK and Ireland," the overnight briefing paper said.
There is currently no border controls of any kind between Northern Ireland and the republic and there are fears Brexit could destabilise the peace process.
Britain also wants to maintain the Commons Travel Area between Britain and Ireland, which pre-dates the EU, and protect the rights of British and Irish citizens contained in the Good Friday Agreement.
One of the proposals is to establish a cross-border trade exemption with the republic, which would see tariff-free trade continue.
The Irish Government have welcomed the paper but cautioned against using the peace process as a "bargaining chip".
Its position will be represented in talks by the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who yesterday tweeted: "The quicker UK and EU27 agree on citizens, settling accounts and Ireland, the quicker we can discuss customs and future relationship."
The comment followed UK Brexit Secretary David Davis outlining the UK's three main priorities: to ensure trade with the EU is frictionless as possible, to avoid any form of hard-border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and to establish an independent international trade policy.
Ireland's largest business group Chambers Ireland told the Huffington Post the UK's plans for the border “lacks the necessary detail” to be viable.
The group's chief executive, Ian Talbot, said: “We do not fully understand how the UK’s suggestion that they plan to have an open border with the EU ties into the immigration concerns they have expressed. This approach could also impact on Ireland’s immigration policy and obligations.
“Our Chamber members along the border have also highlighted several concerns businesses have about traceability and regulation, delays in travelling cross border for day to day business, education and social needs.”