Leaving the EU: Customs Officers

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

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 12:00 am, 20th December 2017

What estimate the Government have made of the number of customs officers that will be required to conduct border checks in Northern Ireland as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

What estimate the Government have made of the number of customs officers that will be required to conduct border checks in Northern Ireland as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Customs is a matter for phase 2 of the withdrawal negotiations with the EU. The Government are committed to ensuring that the border remains open with no physical infrastructure, as set out in the joint report agreed with the EU on 8 December.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

When even the Government accept that their proposals for a frictionless border are untested and go beyond existing precedents, we can see why businesses read that as undeliverable, unless ongoing membership of the single market and customs union are involved. Given that the Minister insists that such membership is not necessary, will he tell us what progress has been made in exploring and designing alternative solutions?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The joint report highlights the progress that has been made. It sets out the framework that will take us into phase 2, with customs and other arrangements to ensure that there is no physical infrastructure on the border and to see that open trading relationship.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

The Exiting the European Union Committee visited Northern Ireland a few weeks ago, and everyone we spoke to was very anxious to press on us the fact that any change at all to the status of the Irish border would be seen as a backward step. Does the Secretary of State agree that the reddest of all red lines in the Brexit negotiations must be the maintenance of the integrity of the Good Friday agreement and the peace process that depends on it?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I do agree in terms of the maintenance of the Good Friday agreement—the Belfast agreement—and, very firmly, in terms of not seeing any hard border re-emerging, and that is what has been reflected in the joint report.