Brexit: Single UK-Irish food zone proposed

London, UK: Britain and Ireland could avoid checks on the border after a no-deal Brexit says an report by the Alternative Arrangements Commission, a non-government organisation.

The report will unveiled at a conference on the Irish border in London today. It concludes that the UK would only need the Irish border backstop contained in the withdrawal agreement until 2022, if work on such arrangements started today.

Food standards are one of the most difficult border issues due to strict EU rules as food products entering from a non-member state must be subject to checks at the point of entry. If the UK is outside the single market after Brexit that could mean products being exported from Northern Ireland to the Republic would have to be checked at border inspection posts.

The report from the Alternative Arrangements Commission suggests that one solution could be for Britain and Ireland to form a single zone for food standards. The rules in the zone would remain closely aligned with the EU to minimise the prospect that goods would have to be checked when entering the continental EU.

The proposal is fraught with difficulties and the commission acknowledges it would be difficult to negotiate. Almost all the parties involved object to one or more aspects of the propsal.

It would require the EU to accept UK standards as equivalent to EU standards. It would also require support of Northern Ireland political parties

It is likely to be extremely controversial in Ireland as it could be seen as weakening Ireland’s position as a member of the EU single market. It is also not a guarantee that border checks would not ultimately have to be applied.

The island of Ireland is already a single zone for animal health, meaning all livestock entering NI from GB are subject to checks at Larne Harbour.

The commission says that simply extending that arrangement to cover food standards would resolve many issues. However, it concludes that such an arrangement could not negotiated at this time, though that could change if a Stormont government is in place.

Another idea around the area of food standards suggests that any checks could take place away from the border.

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