MEP Jim Nicholson has expressed his concerns about leaked  proposals from the European Commission that suggest the north should remain in the EU customs union after Brexit if it wants to avoid a land based so-called "hard" border.

Warning that such proposals would amount to placing a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, Mr Nicholson pointed out that this would both breach the Belfast Agreement, and be immensely damaging for Northern Ireland’s economic interests.

One of the many border roads between Armagh and Louth that would be at the forefront of any new border controls. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
One of the many border roads between Armagh and Louth that would be at the forefront of any new border controls. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Mr Nicholson commented that the European Union has pledged to protect the Belfast Agreement in Brexit talks, something that's utterly incompatible with the alleged proposals which essentially places an international border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The MEP stated “Economically, placing barriers to trade with Great Britain, and taking us out of the UK single market makes no sense whatsoever. Across all major sectors, our biggest single market for sales is the United Kingdom.

“If Brussels thinks it speaks for Northern Ireland, or that this would somehow be in Northern Ireland’s interests, it can think again.

“Ultimately, it could well become clear that it is the Republic of Ireland which needs to seek special status and derogations from the customs union and internal market rules.

Mr Nicholson concluded “What the EU is proposing would risk immense damage to Northern Ireland’s interests and would make a mockery of the Belfast Agreement it has pledged to protect. It is vital that the UK Government maintains a strong line on this.”