Post-Brexit customs checks ‘10-15 kilometres inside Republic’

Gardai and customs officers carrying out checks on the southern side of the Irish border
Gardai and customs officers carrying out checks on the southern side of the Irish border

Customs controls to regulate the movement of goods across the Irish border post-Brexit could be “10 or 15 kilometres” inside the Republic’s territory, an Irish parliamentary committee has heard.

Customs declarations could increase tenfold and around 6%-8% of freight could be subject to physical checks, Irish revenue commissioner Liam Irwin told the finance committee in Dublin.

Mr Irwin also said that although neither the Republic nor the UK wanted a “hard border,” customs controls are required under EU law.

The UK has signalled its intention to leave the EU Customs Union as part of its deal to withdraw from the European Union but is now seeking new customs arrangements.

The UK as a whole voted in favour of leaving the EU (52%-48%) but only 44% of those who voted in Northern Ireland supported Brexit.

Mr Irwin told the committee that customs checks would take place at “trade facilitation posts” which would be “10 or 15 kilometres back from the border,” the BBC has reported.

The commissioner said there would also have to be some form of random, or risk-based, checks carried out by mobile customs units.

While emphasising that customs declarations would happen electronically, he said most transactions would be approved immediately.

Technological advances have streamlined checks where other EU jurisdictions share borders with non-EU countries – particularly the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) scanning devices.

Although the relatively invisible border between EU member state Sweden and non-EU member Norway is often referenced as an ideal example for the island of Ireland, a senior customs official in Sweden recently confirmed that frequent physical checks are carried out on freight and that queues occur at peak times.

Mr Irwin said Irish customs authorities are not in “any form of discussion” with the UK at present, but assured the committee there would be no return to the situation that existed prior to 1992 when there were physical customs checks on border.

He also said his organisation is actively seeking a solution to the problem of facilitating “small local traders” post-Brexit.

Mr Irwin said both Ireland and the EU had pledged to devise “flexible and imaginative solutions” to border-related problems, and emphasised that keeping Northern Ireland within the single market or within the EU was “not in Dublin’s gift”.