Warning EU threat to check luggage entering Northern Ireland ‘could hit economy’

EU threats to revisit checks on the personal luggage of people coming from Great Britain into Northern Ireland has the potential to damage tourism, a Queen’s University economist has warned.

Among Brussels’ warnings about using “all measures” in retaliation for any unilateral UK move to dump parts of the protocol is a threat to impose checks on passengers’ bags who arrive at Northern Irish ports and airports from GB.

The EU also came under criticism for a parallel warning that it will demand customs checks on parcels sent between GB and NI as part of any retaliatory response to the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.

On the possibility of customs luggage checks on travellers arriving from GB, Dr Graham Brownlow, lecturer in economics at QUB, said there was a danger of “reputational on-line damage” to Northern Ireland as a destination.

Travellers from GB to NI could have their luggage checked

Dr Brownlow said: “It is impossible to quantify how such checks on bags and other luggage will impact on the tourism economy in Northern Ireland. However, it is worth remembering lately Belfast’s public image was damaged by some footage put up on YouTube of litter-strewn streets in the city centre, which went viral.

“Imagine if these bag checks resulted in long queues coming into ports and airports and someone ended up filming them and putting these images up on social media. You can imagine the online reputational damage that could cause, especially to a society trying to bring more people here.”

Meanwhile, the DUP urged the government last night to stand by its pledge to resist EU demands for customs checks on parcel deliveries in the Province.

Former economy minister and DUP East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons said the government’s original decision to waive customs regulations on parcels delivered by the likes of Amazon had been completely justified.

On goods sent via delivery firms across the Irish Sea into NI Mr Lyons said: “The vast majority of these goods are for personal use or sale in Northern Ireland. They provide absolutely zero threat to the integrity of the EU single m arket.”

Commenting on the EU’s claim that they also need such checks to counteract smuggling across the Irish Sea, Mr Lyons said: “There has been smuggling on the border of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic for decades. We have different currencies and tax systems. Even today, the scale of organised crime on the EU’s eastern borders would make Slab Murphy and his friends blush.”