Stephen Farry said: “Dismissing problems doesn’t make them go away, nor does passing the buck to others. Everyone may wish to avoid a hard border, but any difference in the customs and tariff regimes between the UK and the European Union would require both a heavy administrative burden and some form of physical checks. Even light touch borders such as between Norway and Sweden have a physical frontier.
“This has been the clear and consistent view of the European Union itself and many experts on customs policy. It is the UK that is opting to leave the EU and the Government is failing to grasp the reality that the EU would wish to preserve the integrity of their Customs Union and Common External Tariff as much as the UK will in due course wish to protect its own trading relationships with the rest of the world. Any customs interface is not just between the EU and UK, but potentially between the EU and the rest of the world.
“The government is being over-optimistic in expecting that technological and regulatory solutions can entirely avoid the need for at least some form of targeted checks on the movement of goods.
“This paper also fails to take into account the impact of tariffs themselves on the economic viability of business operating on a north-south basis and the scale of additional regulatory burden and other non-tariff barriers from two jurisdictions being under different customs regimes.
“Any physical border will have profound economy, political and security implications for both parts of Ireland. In particular, it is not consistent with the Good Friday Agreement. Northern Ireland depends on sharing, integration and interdependence, and the freedom to move and do business across these islands to function, yet Brexit entails new borders and boundaries. As a guarantor of the Agreement, the UK Government needs to understand the threats to the Agreement, not simply pass the buck.
“The only means to avoid this physical border, short of the UK opting to remain inside the European Union and the current Customs Union, is to create a formal Customs Union between the UK and EU.
“Alliance is more confident that the Common Travel Area can be preserved. However, this is not in itself guaranteed. There is a complacency that given the CTA predates either the UK and Ireland joining the European Community that it can be preserved, but this neglects to recognise that the UK and Ireland have up to now adopted the same approach in terms of being inside or outside European structures.”