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Brexit and Europe Brexit and Europe

Maintain a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

Last updated: 02:35pm 14 October 2019

We will maintain the Common Travel Area and maintain as frictionless a border as possible for people, goods and services between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.36

Our verdict

Ok, this is a big one. Firstly, when the government says “a frictionless border” they mean that there will be no hard border between the two countries. Why is this important? The main concern is that having customs checkpoints between the two countries will undermine the peace that was achieved through the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Currently this isn’t a problem because, with the UK and Ireland both in the EU, we’re able to trade as if there are no borders. The problem is it’s not clear how the UK can leave the EU and still maintain the benefits of the EU’s single market and customs union (not to mention maintaining the Common Travel Area).  If no agreement can be made, the UK government will be obliged to put a border in place. If they don’t, they risk getting into trouble with the World Trade Organisation for flouting the trade rules.

The good news is that the EU and the UK drafted an initial agreement regarding the Irish border (you can read the actual agreement here). The bad news is that the deal has rejected for a third time, and the issue of the Irish border backstop was a huge sticking point for many, not least the DUP.

So currently we have no deal. As things stand now, we’ll either leave the EU on October 31st with a new deal, or a further extension will be requested to give more time to consider our options (quite probably a general election being one of those options).

This is ‘in progress’. Clearly work has been done to try to safeguard a frictionless border, but no deal is in place and there is still much to do. Follow this policy for updates.

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