In a major change from the original Northern Ireland backstop to avoid a hard border will require a huge leap into the unknown. It is the area of customs.
In practical terms, The Irish Times reports, this is the most complex part of the proposed Brexit plan to manage, with much of the small print yet to be written.
By dropping the idea of a EU-UK customs territory in the original plan, London and Brussels have agreed to allow Northern Ireland to leave the EU customs union while still applying the bloc’s customs rules there.
In an effort to maintain an open Irish Border, the EU is outsourcing checks on goods coming on to the island – and possibly into the EU market – to the UK authorities, with EU officials entitled to be present for checks at (ferry)ports in the North, Scotland and England.
Beyond a broad line of how it would work, there is little detail on how it will be managed. It is not clear what exactly would happen to a truckload of widgets travelling from Scotland to Northern Ireland through Belfast Port on to Dublin and then further into the EU market. A similar customs proposal from the UK was dismissed last year by Brussels as unworkable.
The newspaper has more here to read.
Afloat adds today marks the fourth and final day of the British Ports Association's annual conference which for the first time was hosted by Belfast Harbour. More than 300 industry representatives from across the UK and Ireland are attending.
As previously reported on Afloat, in advance of the event the BPA discussed the UK Government's 'new Brexit Border plan'.