Leaving the EU: Border Discussions

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th December 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Minister (Housing) 12:00 am, 20th December 2017

What recent discussions he has had with the Irish Government on a frictionless border on the island of Ireland to inform the UK’s negotiations with the EU.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Assistant Whip

We speak regularly with counterparts in the Irish Government on a range of issues. As the Prime Minister has said, we will maintain the common travel area, there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and no new borders within the United Kingdom.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Minister (Housing)

I am grateful both to the Secretary of State and to the Minister for making it very clear that there will be no hard borders within the island of Ireland and no hard borders between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Will she make it very clear that a hard Brexit for the United Kingdom would be incompatible with the statement that she has just made? It is important that we have that clarity.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Assistant Whip

The Prime Minister has given that clarity. She was at this very Dispatch Box only earlier this week saying that we need not speak in terms of hard or soft Brexit. What we are out to do is to get the best possible deal for all parts of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

Is it not the case that there already are different tariffs, for example, on petrol and diesel, and yet there is an open border? Surely the best way to ensure that there is an open border is to have a comprehensive free trade agreement with the rest of the European Union.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Assistant Whip

Quite right. My hon. Friend is correct on two counts. The first is that, of course, there is already co-operation across the border. He mentions the way that we need to be able to deal with fuel, for example, on the two sides of the border. He is also absolutely correct that what we want is a free trade agreement—a comprehensive deal—which is laid out in the agreement that the Prime Minister brought back from Brussels. That is the work ahead.

Photo of Paul Girvan Paul Girvan Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

Minister, in recent comments, the Irish Prime Minister, Mr Varadkar, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Coveney, have indicated that they will draw a border down the middle of the Irish sea. May I say that those sorts of comments do not give much confidence back to the people of Northern Ireland and the Unionist community that I represent, who want to be an integral part of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Assistant Whip

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that we in this House want to see no new borders inside the United Kingdom. We think that the Union is a precious thing that must be preserved. I will also just note, as I did to Tony Lloyd, that the relationship that we have with the Irish Government and that we want to continue to have with them should be one of close partners. We should work together to ensure the prosperity of the people in Northern Ireland, and I shall leave it to the Irish Government to continue to hold that strong relationship with us.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Given that the vast majority of trade goes from the Republic to the north in terms of coming to the UK, can my hon. Friend confirm that we will have no need for a hard border and that the only prospect of a hard border is if the EU sets one up in southern Ireland?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Assistant Whip

To keep the answer short, this should be a shared endeavour to ensure a future trade deal that has benefits for the people of the entirety of the United Kingdom. That is what we want to see.