Government Publishes Brexit Position Paper on the Irish Border
The Government has now published their Brexit position paper on the Irish border. You can read the full text here (opens as a PDF) but we’ve highlighted the details that are most relevant to the meat industry.
The paper outlines nine principles on which potential models for the border will be evaluated. This includes recognising the integrated nature of the agri-food industry, and taking account of the importance of trade between Ireland and the UK. The nine principles include the following that are relevant to us:
- Recognise the crucial importance of avoiding a return to a hard border for the peace process in Northern Ireland. This must mean aiming to avoid any physical border infrastructure in either the United Kingdom or Ireland, for any purpose (including customs or agri-food checks).
- Recognise the unique nature of the land border, in particular: its history and geography; the cross-border movements of smaller traders, farmers and individuals; the need to protect everyday movement of goods; and the integrated nature of the agri-food industry.
There is a section dedicated to potential approaches on sanitary and phytosanitary measures. The paper outlines that the Government believes the UK and EU should prioritise avoiding a hard border in relation to SPS measures for agri-food and makes the following points:
- The extent and complexity of third country SPS and related checks would not be appropriate or consistent with the UK and the EU’s shared objectives to avoid a hard border for the movement of goods, and to respect the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement in all its parts.
- The UK will approach reaching agreement on this issue with the same flexible and imaginative approach it will adopt across all aspects of the Northern Ireland-Ireland border negotiations. The UK agrees that the solution cannot be “based on a precedent” and it is important to note that the EU has reached deep agreements with near neighbours allowing for the free flow of agri-food products across borders.
- The UK is in a unique position; the Repeal Bill means that the UK is starting from a point of full regulatory alignment on day one after the leaving the EU.
- One option for achieving our objectives could be 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. 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 or related checks for agri-food products at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.