Brexit is currently one of the biggest issues facing the UK. In the December general election many voters cast their ballots based upon each party’s Brexit stance, which is why it was dubbed the Brexit election. While the Conservative Party made massive gains due to its strong Brexit position, the Labour Party had its worst defeat in almost a century because of its indeterminate stance on Brexit. Now Boris Johnson is at the helm, but why is the Irish border a threat to the PM?
The Irish border could cause issues for Boris Johnson as he endeavours to deliver Brexit through Parliament by January 31.
Last week, the Brexit deal was approved by MPs and will this week be put to the House of Lords for further discussion and approval.
However, in a new report from the Institute for Government, the Irish border has been identified as a potential thorn in Mr Johnson’s potential win.
According to the report, Northern Ireland customs plans could take five years to implement.
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The report outlines expert opinion which states that it will be impossible to deliver the computer systems for the special arrangements for the Irish border by the end of this year.
Failure to implement the new systems will risk legal action by the European commission against Britain, according to the Institute for Government.
The new report reads: “The [Brexit] deal has the support of no Northern Irish political parties and it looks almost impossible to complete the practical changes, for government and business, by the end of the year.
“Failure to comply with the withdrawal agreement could see the European commission begin infringement proceedings and the UK ending up at the ECJ [European court of justice].”
Mr Johnson’s government remains adamant there will be no checks or new reporting systems on trade crossing the Irish sea.
The Prime Minister intends to implement a trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020 but was dealt a crushing blow by Ireland’s Tánaiste Simon Coveney over the weekend when the latter indicated the bloc would be unwilling to expedite negotiations to suit Mr Johnson’s timetable.
The Institute for Government’s report indicates similar customs arrangements for Northern Ireland would take around five years to develop and implement.
Part of the problem is that until the new trade deal between the UK and the EU is struck, the details of the Northern Ireland arrangements cannot be finalised.
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In Mr Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill, the Northern Ireland border solution involves the region effectively staying in the single market, but in the UK customs zone.
This subsequently means tariff charges and rebates, paperwork and physical checks on certain fresh foods and live animals going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The report says: “The UK will formally leave the EU at the end of January, and in that sense Brexit will be done, but many of the biggest Brexit jobs will be far from over.
“It will continue to dominate government for years to come.
“The prime minister may hope to end Brexit’s dominance in the public debate after 31 January, but in Whitehall it will continue to be the biggest and most challenging task faced by a government in decades.”
According to Mr Johnson’s deal, animals and fresh food moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be subject to some physical checks, in addition to a tariff and tariff rebate system operating for the first time.
These measures are being implemented in order to protect any substandard goods entering the EU’s single market from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland.
The computer systems cannot be created until a trade deal with the EU is finalised.
The report says: “With the details of how the border will operate still unclear – and likely to be so for some months – and no preparatory work having happened for checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the 11-month timeline is almost certainly undeliverable.”
The uncertainty about the logistics behind the computer systems means Brexit could take up to five years to be delivered officially for Northern Ireland.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Mary Show, Mr Coveney said the deal needed to be struck between the UK and EU over their future relationship was vast, encompassing security, data, aviation and trade.
He said: “When people talk about the future relationship in the UK in particular, they seem to only talk about a future trade agreement.
“Actually, there’s much more to this than that…I know that Johnson has set a very ambitious timetable to get this done – he’s even put it into British law – but just because a British parliament decides that British law says something, doesn’t mean that that law applies to the other 27 countries of the European Union.
“And so the European Union will approach this on the basis of getting the best deal possible, a fair and balanced deal, to ensure that the UK and the EU can interact as friends in the future. But the EU will not be rushed on this just because Britain passes a law.”
The Institute for Government said this will “make it difficult for businesses and the UK government to know exactly what will be required of them before a deal is reached”.
The agency warned a failure to honour the deadline could see the EU taking legal action.
The body said: “The responsibility for implementing the provisions falls entirely on the UK.
“Failure to deliver would mean the European Commission could start infringement proceedings and the UK could end up being fined by the ECJ.”
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