‘Concrete progress’ made: Brexit border crossings could take seconds

Clearing border customs post-Brexit could take just seconds, Brexit Secretary David Davis told MPs at Westminster earlier this week.

He said “concrete progress” had been made over key issues surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU – including the Irish border.

“I am confident that, by using the most up-to-date technology, we can get a non-visible border effectively operational along the border between Northern Ireland and [the Republic of] Ireland.

“That was one of the reasons I went to Detroit – not so we could replicate what there is between Detroit and Buffalo – but so that we could use some of the same techniques, [such as] authorised economic operators, pre-notification, electronic tagging on containers. All those things will make it possible for the border to be as light touch as it is today,” Davis said.

The talks will carry significance for Northern Ireland food producers, many of whom sell their produce in the south, as well as Irish producers exporting to the UK. Annually, Northern Ireland exports around £100 million (€109.5 million) of food products.

The update focused on the third round of talks which happened last week and covered four main principles, including Northern Ireland and Ireland.

“Nobody pretended this would be simple or easy. I have always said this will be tough, complex and at times confrontational,” Davis, who is the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, told the House of Commons.

The negotiations will see the UK hammer out the finer details of its EU exit, including its so-called “divorce bill”. Also on the table are trade tariffs and migration policies.

Davis told MPs that agreements had been made to protect the rights of frontier workers, as well as to protect existing health care rights for 2017 EU workers.

“It is clear that we have made solid, concrete progress,” Davis said as he summarised the discussions over Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Canadian-US example

Referring again to the US-Canadian border, he added: “The average clearance time for a vehicle going through that – and there’s a choke point remember – is 53 seconds.

When we clear containers from outside the European Union area, we clear – I think 98% of them – in 4-5 seconds; so technology can accelerate these things enormously well – and that’s what we are planning to do.

However, Sir Keir Starmer, Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, described it as “a fantasy” to think the UK could have a deep and comprehensive trade deal without shared institutions.

“Too many promises have been made about Brexit which can’t be kept,” he added.

Brexit financial issues

Meanwhile, Davis added that the UK had challenged some of the financial settlement the EU is asking it to pay.

“It is clear that the two sides have very different legal positions,” he said. Negotiators had an “obligation to our tax payers” to go through the EU’s bill “line by line”, he added.