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Irish Border: Checks and Customs Arrangements - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:17 pm on 1st October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:17 pm, 1st October 2019

My Lords, with the leave of the House, and on behalf of my noble friend Lord Callanan of the Department for Exiting the European Union, I will now repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer given in the other place earlier today by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union:

“Mr Speaker, we are committed to finding a solution to the North/South border which protects the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. We can best meet these commitments if we explore solutions other than the backstop.

The backstop risks weakening the delicate balance embodied in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. This was grounded in agreement, consent, and respect for minorities. Removing control of the areas of commercial and economic life of Northern Ireland to an external body, over which the people of Northern Ireland have no control, risks undermining that balance. Any deal on Brexit on 31 October must avoid the whole or just part—that is, Northern Ireland—being trapped in an arrangement where it is a rule taker.

The Government intend to set out more details on our position on an alternative to the backstop in the coming days. In the meantime, I can assure the House that under no circumstances will the UK place infrastructure, checks or controls at the border. Both sides have always been clear that the arrangements for the border must recognise the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland and, reflecting that, be creative and flexible.

The Prime Minister’s European Union sherpa, David Frost, is leading a cross-government team in these detailed negotiations with Taskforce 50. We have shared in written form a series of confidential technical non-papers, which reflect the ideas the United Kingdom has been putting forward. These papers are not the Government setting out our formal position. These meetings and our sharing of confidential technical non-papers show that we are serious about getting a deal, and one that must involve the removal of the backstop”.