Brexit and the Irish Border

14 August 2017

Author: Rachel Craig


As the publication of Brexit position papers is anticipated later this week, the UK Government has indicated that a “light touch border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland following Brexit is what is needed.

If the UK leaves both the single market and the customs union, there will be no ability to move goods freely in and out of the UK to other EU countries. As a result imposition of a form of border checks along the 310 mile stretch between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would be required in relation to food safety, plant safety and packaging rules, among other things. The UK Government expects that the use of new technology would be the means of carrying out border checks – presumably hoping that the efficiency and intelligence of new technology would reduce the associated time and cost implications which one expects would be caused by the checks. The Irish Government, however, has made clear that its view is that there shouldn’t be an economic border at all. So what next?

Whilst the media has reported that the proposal of a “light touch border” risks putting the UK Government on a collision course with the Irish Government[1], it is worth remembering that it is the EU that will have the final say over any special arrangements. The papers due to be published this week are part of the UK Government’s strategy to “ensure we [the UK] get a deal that delivers a strong UK and a strong EU.”[2] We understand and appreciate that the uncertainty currently surrounding Brexit and the open question of the Irish border is causing great concern for many business operating on the island of Ireland. Carson McDowell’s dedicated Brexit team will continue to monitor the developments and would be happy to assist any firms questioning how to best prepare for the prospect of the imposition of a border.

For further information please contact our Brexit team at [email protected]

[1] As reported in The Independent, 13 August 2017

[2] David Davis, Brexit Secretary