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Customs posts proposed by UK 'effectively a border with a buffer zone'

The UK has put forward controversial proposals to set up a string of customs posts on either side of border which would replace the Brexit backstop.

The plan, which has been put forward to the EU in the British government’s so-called ‘non-papers’, would set up customs clearance sites between five and 10 miles away from the border on both sides.

The Government has continuously stressed that there can be no return to a hard border or customs checks and so the suggestions are likely to be strongly dismissed.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney have repeatedly stated that the backstop and withdrawal agreement is the only workable solution that has been found so far.

In a statement issued this evening, the Irish government said the EU task force has received "no credible proposals from the British".

The EU says it is not commenting on the reports.

Under the plans goods being transported across the border would move from a clearance post on the Northern side to a similar site on this side of the border.

RTÉ have reported that goods would be monitored in real time using GPS via mobile phone data, or tracking devices placed on trucks or vans.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has already suggested that technology and trusted trader schemes could be used as an alternative to the backstop.

However, these suggestions have not been accepted as credible alternatives by the EU.

Speaking during a visit to a cash-and-carry business in Manchester today, Mr Johnson said: “I’m cautiously optimistic. We have made some pretty big moves, we are waiting to see whether our European friends will help us and whether we can find the right landing zone.

“But whatever happens, we’ll come out on October 31.”

Fianna Fáil's Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers says border posts are no alternative.

"What we're hearing are reports of what are being called 'non-papers' being presented by the UK team to Brussels," said Ms Chambers.

"There appears to be a suggestion that the solution to the backstop or the alternative to the backstop is to erect customs posts on both sides of the border, five to ten miles back from the border which, in my view, is effectively a border with a buffer zone.

"It is not an actual alternative to the backstop."

Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald says customs posts either side of the border is a non-starter.

"I think it is further evidence of Tory recklessness and an actual belligerence towards Ireland," said Ms McDonald.

It gives the lie to all of the commitments that they have made around no hard border on the island, all of this rhetoric and lip service that has been paid to protecting the Good Friday Agreement and our economic and national interest.

Alliance MLA for South Belfast responded to the reports saying that the proposals "only prove why a backstop is needed if it continues down the destructive path of a hard Brexit."

She said that the UK government "are ignorant and callous and show neither understanding nor interest in the real concerns of - and impact on - border communities".

- Additional reporting by Elaine Loughlin