Brexiteers Challenge May With Alternative Irish Border Plan

(Bloomberg) -- The European Research Group of euroskeptic Conservatives continued its efforts to stop Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan, setting out what it said was a workable solution to the question of the Irish border.

The document, published Wednesday, argued that too much emphasis had been placed on the border issue -- the main sticking point in talks between the U.K. and the EU. The group said the level of trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland was small, and that no physical checkpoints would need to be put up on the border, which was for many years a focal point for terrorist attacks.

Instead, the ERG plan proposes customs checks away from the border, and a “trusted trader” program for large businesses.

The group’s trickiest assumption is that no checks would be needed on goods because the U.K. and the EU are already in regulatory alignment. One of the arguments for Brexit is to move U.K. regulation away from the EU’s system, while given the region’s turbulent history, spot customs checks at people’s business premises could also be inflammatory.

The publication is part of an assault on May’s Brexit strategy. On Tuesday, senior ERG figures also backed a report from Economists For Free Trade, which advocated leaving the EU without any deal at all. That report’s assumptions were widely ridiculed by trade experts.

But the ERG’s border plan did receive support from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government. Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds described it as a “positive and timely development.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the ERG, insisted that the group wasn’t trying to remove May. “I’ve long said and repeated again and again that I think the policy needs to be changed but I’m supporting the person,” he said.

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