, 20 tweets, 3 min read
BREAKING: the UK has proposed a string of "customs clearance centres" on both sides of the Irish border as a key part of its plan to replace the backstop, RTE News understands. The "centres", effectively customs posts, would be located between 5-10 miles "back" from the border.
2/ Details of the ideas emerged in the presentation of "non-papers" by British officials during recent technical talks between UK and European Commission officials
3/ The proposals, which have been conveyed to @rtenews, support the growing belief that the UK will insist Northern Ireland remain in the UK's customs territory for industrial goods and agrifood consignments, with only selective alignment on EU food safety and animal health rules
4/ Under the plans goods moving north and south would need to be declared and cleared in "customs clearance sites" on either side. The goods then moving through the 10m-20m zone would be monitored in real time, poss via mobile phone GPS data or tracking devices fitted to vehicles
5/ Exporters and importers would be required to either opt for a straightforward pre-lodged customs declaration or to use the transit option, whereby transparency is ensured through a financial bond
6/ Authorised Economic Operators (AEOs) could reduce the level of checks at "customs clearance sites" or on premises, but smaller traders would have to comply with the new rules
7/ Freight and export industry figures have long argued that AEO status would be well out of the reach of many cross-border traders
8/ Briefings by EU sources in recent weeks have made it clear that under Boris Johnson, the UK has focused its efforts on avoiding physical infrastructure at the actual land border.
9/ These ideas would meet that demand, but the infrastructure would be five or ten miles away from the border.
10/ It's not clear if this customs element of the non-papers will make it into the UK's formal proposals, expected once Boris Johnson has addressed the Tory Party Conference on Wednesday...
11/ But these ideas chime with his long-held admiration of "max fac"
12/ Dublin and Brussels will take a dim view of them: they reflect Johnson's whittling down of the Joint Report Dec '17 promises: no hard border or *related checks or controls*, preserving the all-island economy, single mkt, North-South cooperation
13/ The main argument against this approach is that all the technology in the world is of no use if the actual customs tariff makes your cross-border business unviable, especially if you're in agrifood
14/ However, as well as the creation of "inland customs clearance sites" the most controversial proposal is the use of real time tracking of goods and freight traffic once the goods have left the "customs clearance site".
15/ It's understood an electronic notification would be sent to inform the customs authority that the consignment has crossed the border
16/ The tracking would be via GPS, possibly either through mobile phone data or a tracking device attached to vehicles...
17/ Relying on data, suveillance, real-time tracking along the Irish border would obviously be an enormous challenge given the politics of the border to say the least.
18/ As @hayward_katy wrote in her @UKandEU paper, "the principle that people wish to see as little change as possible; the fact that there is a history of military surveillance and securitisation in the border region...
19/ (leaving a legacy of suspicion of government information-gathering, and a strong defence of privacy); and the fact that if there are negative consequences to the use of alternative arrangements, it will always be presented as a direct consequence of the UK’s decision.”
20/ Finally, again, it's not clear if this will be part of Boris Johnson's formal proposals to the EU on replacing the backstop, but my understanding is that this is the gist of what UK officials have proposed on customs in the non-papers presented to the EU.
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