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The EU maintains anomalous trading relationships with non sovereign territories -e.g. Greenland - and there is no treaty requirement for the CU to extend only over sovereign entities. However such outcomes tend to happen in consequence of last minute compromises required to secure agreement on greater issues and I would not expect such outcomes to be flagged in briefing documents in advance.
">>to secure the Republic's agreement to a deal and obviate the obvious problems a [500km land] customs border<<"
Any Brexit deal has to secure the weighted majority support of the EU Council and any extension of the A50 period or subsequent trade deal requires unanimous consent. (The question of whether a trade deal could effectively be "contained" within a Brexit deal, and thus require only weighted majority agreement is less clear in my mind, and any light you can throw on that issue would be welcome).
EU negotiators will therefore be extremely mindful of retaining the confidence and support of it's member states, and particularly that of Ireland, as the member state most intimately and dramatically impacted by Brexit. This is reflected in the fact that Irish border issues have been elevated to one of the three most important issues on which substantial progress must be made before the Brexit talks can mover on to other issues - including those prioritised by the UK.
There have also been direct and ongoing discussions between Barnier and the Irish government to ensure both are aligned on issues of vital national interest to Ireland. This does not amount to Ireland seeking to negotiate bilateral deals with the UK, rather that the EU takes Irish concerns into account in its negotiating plan.
I have no doubt that the UK is also seeking to use the various Irish issues as part of a broader strategy to undermine EU unity and strength in it's negotiating response. All the more reason for close cooperation between EU negotiators and the Irish Government.
It may be taken as a given that any customs controls at the 500KM land border will be porous, at best, even if Ireland were to formally agree to implement them - something that would probably lead to the downfall of any Irish government which agreed to do so.
It is in the EU's pragmatic self interest, therefore, to seek to ensure that the Customs Union extends as far as the island of Ireland.
The UK Government cannot agree to this whilst it remains dependent on DUP support. Instead it has proposed that any cross-border trade is limited to private vehicles and small traders (which are immaterial, in volume terms, in the greater scheme of things) but that any commercial or container trade, or onward trade from Britain is controlled.
It has suggested that his could be done by implementing checks at Irish Land and sea ports and allowing unimpeded transit only of consignments originating in the Republic, with certificates of origin, and from trusted traders. Cameras with number plate recognition technology at approved border crossing points for commercial vehicles would help ensure that goods originating in the UK were identified at ports.
According to the UK, this would prevent Ireland from becoming a back door for UK/EU trade seeking to evade tariffs or regulatory controls. It would not, however, prevent small scale smuggling of repackaged goods. It is not difficult to see why the EU would prefer controls at all Irish Air and sea ports for any trade with Britain.
Index of Frank's Diaries
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