The UK will not introduce any new checks or controls on goods moving across the land border into Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, it has been announced.
Under a temporary and unilateral regime announced by the British government, EU goods arriving from the Republic and remaining in Northern Ireland will not be subject to tariffs.
However, tariffs will be payable on goods moving from the EU into the rest of the UK via Northern Ireland under a schedule of rates also released on Wednesday.
The government insists that this will not create a border down the Irish Sea, as there will be no checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Instead, normal compliance and intelligence methods will be used to detect any traders attempting to abuse the system.
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said the government was clear that a deal with the EU was “the best outcome for Northern Ireland”.
“But we will do all we can to support people and businesses across Northern Ireland in the event that we leave without a deal,” she said.
“The measures announced today recognise the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland. These arrangements can only be temporary and short term.”
Ministers accepted that the new regime will cause “concerns” to Northern Irish businesses and farmers about the impact on their competitiveness.
But they said these were the only steps that could be taken to deliver on the government’s commitment to avoiding a hard border in the case of no deal.
It comes as MPs plot to finally rule out a no-deal Brexit today when the Commons is ask to vote on the outcome.
Conservative MPs will be given a free vote this evening evening on whether they are willing for the UK to leave the EU without an agreement at the end of the month.
They will vote on a motion stating “this House declines to approve leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a framework on the future relationship on March 29”.
If MPs reject no-deal – as most Westminster observers expect – a third vote will follow on Thursday on whether to authorise May to request an extension of the two-year Article 50 negotiation process.
MPs voted by 391 to 242 against May’s deal last night, despite the prime minister’s assurance new agreements reached with Jean-Claude Juncker in Strasbourg would ensure the UK cannot be trapped in the controversial backstop arrangement indefinitely.
Although the 149 margin was reduced from the record 230-vote defeat of the first “meaningful vote” in January, May was left far adrift from a majority with just 17 days to go to the scheduled date of Brexit on March 29.
Some 75 Conservative MPs rebelled to vote against the deal, while just three Labour MPs and four independents joined the 235 Tories who backed it.