New version: The Times is reporting that agreement is close on “regulatory convergence” on the island of Ireland even if there is a divergence between the UK and the rest of the EU after Brexit.
They have proposed, in effect, a customs union of the EU and the UK which has at its heart an agreement not to have divergent regulations and standards.
Their paper points out that 80% of all border checks on the island today applying to third countries relate to regulations and standards and are monitored mostly electronically: while only 20% are about conventional trading tariffs.
The Chamber proposes:
- A customs union compatible with EU rules, eliminating the need for a hard Irish border and other borders between the UK and the EU;
- An alignment of tariffs;
- The offer of reciprocal new free trade agreements negotiated by each of them with other countries. The UK would benefit from the EU’s greater clout and the EU would retain open access to the British market.
- The UK would be allowed some restrictions on free movement.
In Ireland, as well as keeping the border open, the GFA would be reanimated by a new economic agenda and a possible threat to peace on the border would be lifted.
Of course, the plan is not foolproof.
A price of €10 billion a year to run indefinitely which has been suggested outside the plan might prove a sticking point to Brexiters. Such a close relationship stretches each side’s position to its extreme and may end up appealing to neither.
Nevertheless, with one of its aims to keep the border open, the combination of constructive ideas might be enough to transform the atmosphere and reach the judgement that “sufficient progress” has been made to allow trade talks to begin after December’s summit.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London