U.K. Gambling With Future of Northern Ireland After Brexit, Panel Says
A banner placed by #Time4Unity reads “Irish Unity, The Solution To Brexit” near Newry, Northern Ireland. (Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg) 

U.K. Gambling With Future of Northern Ireland After Brexit, Panel Says

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Businesses in Northern Ireland lack information on how to prepare for Brexit and will be at a disadvantage to rivals elsewhere in the U.K., a cross-party panel of lawmakers said in a report published Tuesday.

“The government needs to stop gambling with the future of business and of the people of Northern Ireland,” said Simon Hoare, chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. “Unfettered access was promised -- but it looks less and less likely that it will be delivered.”

Unlike the rest of the U.K., Northern Ireland will remain part of the EU’s customs territory once Britain completes its split from the bloc at the end of the year. That means firms moving goods from the rest of the U.K. will need to complete customs paperwork as if they are entering the EU -- creating an extra administrative burden for companies.

Both sides have been willing to accept that anomaly because it avoids the return of customs posts on Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic of Ireland. But, under pressure from unionist politicians, the U.K. government has attempted to downplay the significance of the checks it will impose.

On Monday, Boris Johnson’s government published a detailed plan for the U.K.-EU border after Brexit -- but it didn’t include the situation in Northern Ireland.

“The government may be able to wait until the wire for clarity on customs arrangements, but business cannot,” said Hoare, a Member of Parliament for Johnson’s Conservative Party. “Those trading across the Irish Sea have been told to prepare without knowing what to prepare for.”

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