EU migrants and black market goods will be able to cross into the UK without any checks after Brexit, the Government admitted today.
The Brexit Department confirmed there would be no immigration or customs checks on the Northern Ireland/Ireland border once the UK leaves the EU – despite Britain seeking an end to free movement of people.
Government officials revealed the only measure of control would be to stop migrants getting the legal right to work in the UK – a move that could force them into cash-in-hand work in the unregulated black market.
With regards to goods, the UK wants to keep the same “regulatory outcomes” on agricultural and food as the EU operate – meaning Britain would be severely restricted in the trade deals it could sign with countries such as the USA.
Irish politician Mark Daly, deputy group leader of Fianna Fail in Dublin’s upper chamber, described the plan as a “smuggler’s charter.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “There are trade differentials between the UK and other non-European powers, offering a back door to Europe so people would import goods that are cheaper under tariff arrangements with the UK and then bring them into the Republic and on into the EU.
“Of course the UK want an advantage economically over the EU and will do preferential trade agreements with non-EU countries and, you know, that becomes a smuggler’s charter on this island.
“We already have a smuggling problem while both jurisdictions are in the EU.”
UK plans for its border with Ireland after Brexit were set out in a position paper this afternoon.
The paper promises no physical infrastructure at the border between the two countries, and the preservation of the Common Travel Area (CTA).
“This means protecting the ability to move freely within the UK and between the UK and Ireland with no practical change from now,” says the document.
This means the final border check for migrants wishing to enter the UK is now in Ireland.
The paper also claims border controls “are not, and never have been, solely about the ability to prevent and control entry at the UK’s physical border.”
It states: “Controlling access to the labour market and social security have long formed an integral part of the UK’s immigration system.”
The document also reveals International Trade Secretary Liam Fox may be severely limited in the deals he can strike after Brexit.
In order to allow the unchecked movement of agricultural and food across the UK/Ireland border, Britain will mimic the EU’s health standards.
The document proposes “regulatory equivalence on agri-food measures, where the UK and the EU agree to achieve the same outcome and high standards, with scope for flexibility in relation to the method for achieving this.”
Government officials denied this would lead to identical regulations, but the paper states: “An agreement on regulatory equivalence for agri-food, including regulatory cooperation and dispute resolution mechanisms, would allow the UK and the EU to manage the process of ensuring ongoing equivalence in regulatory outcomes following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
“Providing the UK and the EU could reach a sufficiently deep agreement, this approach could ensure that there would be no requirement for any SPS [Sanitary and Phytosanitary] or related checks for agri-food products at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
Such an agreement could prevent the UK from allowing chlorine-washed chicken from the United States to be imported into Britain, as it could cross into Ireland - and the rest of the EU - unchecked.
It could also stop the relaxing of laws around allowing genetically-modified crops and chemically-enhanced meat into the UK.
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Other key points in the paper include:
Support for the Good Friday Agreement should be written into the UK’s EU Withdrawal Agreement to reflect the commitment of the UK Government, Irish Government, and the European Union, to the peace process.
The Withdrawal Agreement should recognise that the people of Northern Ireland will continue to have — as set out in the Belfast Agreement — a birthright to both Irish and British citizenship. Any people in Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens will continue to benefit from the EU citizenship rights that flow from that.
The Withdrawal Agreement should also recognise the ongoing status of the Common Travel Area and associated rights, a position that is entirely consistent with the EU’s negotiating directives. This will mean there are no passport controls for UK and Irish citizens travelling within the CTA and no question of new immigration checks operating between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
PEACE funding for reconciliation projects in border areas should be continued. The Government wants to explore a potential future programme post-2020 with the Northern Ireland Executive and Irish Government.
The UK and the EU should agree a common understanding of the principles of North-South and East-West cooperation in the initial phases of the dialogue, including key principles to test future models for border arrangements and energy. This includes no physical border infrastructure and maintaining the Single Electricity Market.
Announcing the plans, Brexit Secretary David Davis said: “The UK and Ireland have been clear all along that we need to prioritise protecting the Belfast Agreement in these negotiations, and ensure the land border is as seamless as possible for people and businesses.
“The proposals we outline in this paper do exactly that, and we’re looking forward to seeing the EU’s position paper on the Northern Ireland border.
“In committing to keep the Common Travel Area, which has existed for nearly a century, we’re making sure UK and Irish citizens will continue to be able to travel, live, work and study across both countries.”
The boss of Chambers Ireland – the country’s largest business group –described the plan to have no physical border between the UK and the Republic as lacking in detail and unhelpful.
Ian Talbot, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “The UK’s unwillingness to engage in the very real practical, political and geographical complexities of what will be a new land border between the EU and the UK is unhelpful and does not bode well for the next round of Brexit negotiations.
“Further, technology is not a panacea to the issue of cross-border trade. While technological solutions may be helpful, they are one part of what will be a series of complex arrangements. Suggesting anything otherwise is unrealistic.
“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.”