Sun Exclusive! Special economic zone could be useful for dairy farmers and allow for trade on the border.
David Davis praises ‘constructive’ talks with Michel Barnier in London
The Brexit Secretary is also drawing up a 10 mile-wide buffer zone the length of Northern Ireland’s 310 mile border with Ireland.
Dubbed a ‘special economic zone’, it will be for local traders such as dairy farmers – who make up 90 per cent of the cross border traffic – and share the same trade rules as south of the border.
What use is shifting the border by 10 miles?.
How would joint EU and British customs work?
The two plans will together eradicate the need for any border check points, which is a major EU demand.
But both run the risk of infuriating the DUP, whose 10 MPs are propping up Theresa May’s minority government.
Mr Davis ordered it after he was persuaded to abandon a technology based solution to keep the Irish border open.
Senior Ulster cops warned him that any border infrastructure, even if it’s just camera towers or swipe points, would be targeted by IRA bombers, and it would also fall foul of the Good Friday peace agreement.
The tracking of goods, which was another part of the original Max Fac solution to keep goods flowing freely over the border, has also been abandoned because of the Northern Irish’s deep rooted concerns about civil liberties.
A senior Whitehall source told The Sun: “Max Fac doesn’t look like anything it used to for Northern Ireland now, because the technology has been stripped out.
“But it doesn’t matter what we call it as long as it works, and we think it will.”
In the Indo business editor Brendan Keenan writes that the EU have already turned down exempting small businesses only from customs checks. He adds that Dublin’s implied strategy of forcing the UK government to abandon Brexit is no more realistic.
As to how customs procedures might actually be carried out, Jim Harra, deputy chief executive of the UK revenue authority HMRC, told a parliamentary committee that, while there is “a design challenge,” in theory customs controls do not have to be operated at the actual borders.
He also said the revenue risks from the UK proposal that small businesses trading across the Irish border should be exempt from all customs controls were “not very significant and could be managed”, although they would of course have to be negotiated with the EU – which so far has said “No”.
The implications of such a “No” are beginning to emerge. Insofar as any Irish strategy can be inferred from what has happened so far, it is to force the UK to abandon Brexit because of the impossibility of meeting the conditions laid down for the Irish border in any other way. As a strategy, that is simply not credible – especially not the timing
This month, the all-island integrated electricity market is due to come into operation but, like everything else, under the darkening shadow of Brexit.
The other thing that might be worth a sniffle is how few know there is a single electricity market; still less that it is being upgraded into an integrated one. We are all paying a price for the strange way in which cross-border developments have been kept in the shadows, like some embarrassing family relative.
The electricity market, known as I-SEM, under which power can be traded anywhere on the island, was a product of the Good Friday Agreement, over which there is now so much hand-wringing. It is one of many developments that would have seemed impossible 30 years ago, and have not just been taken for granted, but pretty much ignored in political life.
The major weakness in I-SEM has been the lack of inter-connection across the border. One can buy the power in the other jurisdiction but it may not be possible to deliver.
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