London/Dublin: Britain said it wants to avoid any physical border or customs checks with Ireland as part of any Brexit deal with the European Union, as tensions mount over the terms of the UK's departure from the bloc.
"Of course there is an easier answer to the Irish border question - the British Government could give up its hard Brexit position and negotiate to remain a member of the European customs union".
Experts have warned that it will be extremely hard to negotiate a new EU-UK free trade agreement before Britain leaves the bloc - particularly as Brussels has so far refused even to start trade talks.
"They set out arrangements that would allow United Kingdom businesses to continue to trade with their European partners in the future, while expanding their markets beyond the EU", said Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who has always been pushing for a "softer" Brexit, and for whom Britain's spelling out of ambitions for interim arrangements to smooth the process will be seen as a political victory.
An alternative would be a new customs partnership in which Britain effectively adopts the EU's external customs border to allow for free EU-UK trade, but applies its own trade policy and tariff for imports and exports with third countries destined only for the UK market.
The free flow of Irish citizens in the Common Travel Area will be maintained.. The paper rejects Dublin's proposal that it be moved into the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland.
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"The vast majority of those principles I think reflect the kind of language that we have been using. and so therefore is welcome", Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters.
An estimated 30,000 people cross the 500km border every day without customs or immigration checks.
The UK has said it does not want to see any physical infrastructure introduced at the Irish border, taking into account the "unique circumstances" of Northern Ireland and the Republic. The seemingly intractable position between the two sides on various issues was reiterated last week, when the May government proposed a new agreement on the customs union that was soon shot down by Brussels as "fantasy".
"Protecting the Peace Process is crucial and it must not become a bargaining chip in the negotiations".
The proposed plan which will overrule the need for a physical post-Brexit border would see Britain and the European Union enforcing each other's customs rules.
In its brief response to the British paper, a spokesman for the Commission said that such trade issues would only be a matter for the second phase of negotiations once "sufficient progress" had been made on the withdrawal issues in the ongoing phase-one discussions.