- The Brexit select committee of MPs has criticised the government.
- It called for more clarity and detail on plans for the Irish border.
- A new report called existing proposals “untested” and “speculative.”
- The DUP has threatened to end support for Theresa May if Northern Ireland remains in the customs union.
LONDON – It is not possible to see how the government’s plans for the Irish border after Brexit will work, an important group of MPs has said in a new report.
Theresa May’s government has maintained that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland once the UK leaves the EU.
But it has also ruled out the possibility of Northern Ireland staying in the customs union, two seemingly contradictory positions.
The Brexit select committee has said that government suggestions that there could be a “frictionless border” with the help of new technology are “untested” and “to some extent speculative.”
Their report says: “We do not currently see how it will be possible to reconcile there being no border with the Government’s policy of leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union, which will inevitably make the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland the EU’s customs border with the UK.
“It will be made harder by the fact that the Government’s proposals, by its own admission, are untested and to some extent speculative.”
On Thursday media reports claimed that the government is considering devolving certain powers to Northern Ireland to avoid regulatory divergence between it and Ireland after Brexit, which in turn would prevent a hard border.
The committee has urged the government to set out its plans in more detail. The EU has said progress on this issue is necessary for Brexit talks to move onto the next stage.
It said: “We call upon the Government to set out in more detail how a ‘frictionless’ border can in practice be maintained with the UK outside the Single Market and the Customs Union.”
Five members of the Brexit select committee, four Conservatives and one DUP MP, voted to reject the report’s publication.
Democratic Unionist Party MPs have warned government officials that any Brexit deals which puts Northern Ireland under a separate customs regime to the rest of the UK would imperil the Tory-DUP agreement propping up May’s government.
The Conservative party only has a majority in the House of Commons as a result of the DUP’s 10 MPs. The two parties have a confidence and supply agreement to maintain this.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson told the BBC that any move to “placate” the Irish government and the EU by backing keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union could result in the party dropping its support for the government.
He said: “If there is any hint that, in order to placate Dublin and the EU they’re prepared to have Northern Ireland treated differently than the rest of the UK, then they can’t rely on our vote.
“They have to recognise that if this is about treating Northern Ireland different, or leaving us half in the EU, dragging along regulations which change in Dublin, it’s not on.”
Northern Ireland as a whole voted 56-44 to remain in the EU, but the DUP supports a hard Brexit and could force the government to drop its plans for the Irish border.