The Irish border problem is a "red herring," says DUP member

The Irish border problem is a "red herring," says DUP member

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The DUP politician Sammy Wilson is an avid follower of Brexit

The big bone of contention in the Brexit negotiations was described by one of the ten members of the Democratic Union supporting the minority government of Theresa May as the "red herring".

Sammy Wilson told the BBC World Service that there is no "real problem".

The EU says there must be an agreement to prevent physical checks on the 310-mile border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

So far London and Brussels have not solved the problem.

This opens up the prospect that the United Kingdom will leave the EU in March 2019 without an agreement.

Wilson, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) representative for East Antrim and the party's Brexit spokesman, said, "This is a red herring that ruptures negotiations either until the change of government in Britain breaks the price of the EU's breakup United Kingdom or keep the United Kingdom in the Customs Union and the Single Market

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A customs union would make a significant contribution to keeping the Irish border soft

The honorable Member referred to comments from Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Leo Varadkar, who said he had received assurances about the border from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

In July Varadkar said: "President Juncker and my EU counterparts have repeatedly stated that they do not need to introduce physical infrastructure and customs controls on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland."

President Juncker's office declined to say whether he had made such an undertaking.

Sammy Wilson added: "There is no real problem, as the EU has now confirmed, if they say that in case of no agreement we set no limit, then what is the problem?"

A Taoiseach spokesman said, "The UK Government, the Irish Government and the European Union have repeatedly stated that they are determined to avoid a hard border on the Irish island after the UK leaves the EU."

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The EU wants the border to remain open

So why the whole discussion?

The EU wants a so-called backstop agreement, an insurance policy, to ensure that the border on the island of Ireland remains open if the UK and the EU can not agree on a future trade agreement or technological solution.

This could include keeping Northern Ireland in the EU Customs Union and being bound by some internal market rules.

Theresa May has previously said that proposals for a common area on the Northern Ireland border "undermine the United Kingdom common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom".

And DUP MPs have warned that they would vote against a Brexit deal treating Northern Ireland differently than the rest of the UK.

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A British soldier patrols the Northern Ireland border in 1978

"We do not want to change the government, we just want to change their policies.

"If this means the current leader falls by the wayside, that's a problem for the Conservative Party, not for us," Wilson said.

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney told the BBC in October that Britain needed to stick to the border guard it had made last year: "Britain has signed a letter … a restraint".

"We need to insist on the pledges that the Prime Minister has made to Ireland and the EU to give assurances that there could never be a physical border infrastructure," he said.

"There has to be an attack if and until something better can be negotiated," Coveney said.

Commenting on Theresa May's agreement on backing for Northern Ireland last year, Sammy Wilson said, "The mind fails that anyone can be so stupid."

Theresa May said recently that 95% of the Brexit deal was agreed.

Sammy Wilson said the claim should be handled with care.

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The Irish government wants to avoid a hard line

Although the Prime Minister may think she is 95% of the way there, the Titanic captain believed that he was 95% of the way to his goal.

"He did not quite reach it because an iceberg hit them on the way there, and there are huge icebergs in the way now that get in the way of this deal," he said.

At the moment, people, goods and services move freely across the land border in Ireland.

The United Kingdom and Ireland are both part of the EU. Therefore, the products need not be checked to ensure that they comply with the customs and standards regulations.

If there is no Brexit deal, companies exporting goods to the EU must "follow the customs procedures as they currently do when goods are exported to a third country," the UK government says.

Much of this work would be done electronically outside the border.

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Technical discussions in recent weeks have concerned customs, the regulation of goods and the rights of individuals

The Guidelines state that exporters must apply for an EORI number, consider using the services of a customs broker, submit export declarations to HMRC and apply for export licenses.

The Irish Revenue Commissioner has similarly advised companies on new customs procedures.

"In the period after Brexit, the administrative and tax burden of the participating dealers should not be underestimated," it says in a consultation document.

Under the rules of the World Trade Organization, countries can not normally discriminate between their trading partners unless there is a formal trade agreement.

For example, a no-deal Brexit would mean that Irish products should be treated in exactly the same way as goods from the US or China.

"Give someone a special favor and you have to do the same for all other WTO members," says the organization.

This reduces the ability of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to treat each other's products better than products of other nations.

That's why talking about the Irish border is considered so important.

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