The Government will not accept a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain after Brexit, the Chancellor has said, rejecting a Dublin proposal for a border in the Irish Sea.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar wants customs and immigration checks moved away from the land border to ports and airports – effectively drawing a new border in the Irish Sea, according to The Times.
He rejected Theresa May’s proposals to use technology such as surveillance cameras to allow free movement and maintain the soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the report said.
Sources have told The Times that Mr Varadkar thinks these plans could jeopardise the peace process and restrict movement between the two countries.
The border between the Irish Republic, a member of the European Union, and Northern Ireland will be the only land frontier between the UK and the EU once Britain leaves the bloc in early 2019.
Politicians in London, Dublin, Belfast and Brussels have all said they want to avoid the return of a “hard border”.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has said the Government will not accept a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
“The Irish government, the British Government and indeed the European Union Commission all share an ambition to ensure that we do not reinstate any kind of hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” he told Sky News.
“That is a very high priority to us because the peace process in Ireland is extremely important to us. But the answer on how to deliver that cannot be to create a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.”
Mrs May’s Democratic Unionist Party allies have also ruled out accepting a sea border.
DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Dublin really needs to understand that that proposition is absurd and unconstitutional.”
The border is one of the key issues that needs to be resolved during the current phase of Brexit negotiations, before talks begin on a new trade deal.
Former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern told Sky News he worries that “very little progress” has been made on the issue.
“There is no realistic solution that has been put forward,” he said.
“I really worry that the issue has not been examined to the extent that it requires, looking at the legal and constitutional issues and the trade ramifications.
“A year has gone by and very little has happened.”
Brexit Secretary David Davis has acknowledged that “flexible and imaginative solutions” will be needed to resolve issues around Northern Ireland.
But, when previously asked about an Irish Sea border solution, he told MPs that “I don’t see that would be the solution, to be honest”.