No physical border possible, customs expert tells MPs

Dr Lars Karlsson has written a report on technological customs solutions
Dr Lars Karlsson has written a report on technological customs solutions

A Swedish expert on customs checks has suggested it is possible to have no physical infrastructure on the Irish border after Brexit, but only if the political will exists in a best-case scenario.

Dr Lars Karlsson, a former director of Swedish customs and the author of a report on technological solutions to customs checks entitled ‘Border 2.0’, was speaking at the Commons Brexit committee.

Dr Karlsson’s report is based on an enhanced version of the border arrangements between Norway and Sweden, and suggests the use of trusted trader schemes, number plate recognition cameras, satelite location tracking systems, and the movement of customs clearance arrangements away from the border itself.

He prefaced his evidence to the committee by emphasising his neutrality on any political issues.

“I’m here as a technical expert,” he said.

“I’m not an expert on Ireland, many others are. Of course I’m Swedish as well, so neutral. We are always neutral.”

He said that while no frontier exists in the world that uses what he calls a “smart border” to its full extent, he said in an answer to the DUP MP Sammy Wilson that this would be possible if the political will exists.

He did say, however, that even in that scenario there would still need to be certain arrangements that don’t exist already.

“There needs to be a different type of trusted trader programme,” he said. “That needs to be in place. It’s not in place today so it needs to be designed and developed.”

The Irish government, however, said in a letter to the Times newspaper last week that the ideas put forward in his report would not be enough to prevent a hard border after Brexit.