Britain looking at regulatory checks for Brexit Irish border fix

A police vehicle stops traffic beside a sign for customs and excise on the motorway approaching the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, near Newry, Northern Ireland July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Brexit minister Dominic Raab said on Monday Britain was looking at how regulatory checks on some goods could be used as part of a solution to move Brexit talks, notably a “backstop deal” for the Irish border, forward.

But he repeated that any such deal to prevent the return of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland could not split the United Kingdom and would have to be time-limited.

Raab described a media report that had said the government was preparing to back down on customs checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland as “overspeculating”.

London has indicated that it may consider options on regulations on the island of Ireland, noting that there are already some different rules for agriculture and food products between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

But it was not clear whether the government would tolerate such a difference for manufactured goods.

Raab told an event on the sidelines of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham: “Our number one priority is making sure we don’t see a border down the Irish sea that will carve up economically the United Kingdom,” Raab said.

“We said we would need to retain a UK-wide customs backstop and on the regulatory side of things, we have been clear that we will, as long as we can carry the communities of Northern Ireland with us, we will be open to be looking at some of the options on regulatory checks.”

He also said he welcomed EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s suggestion that technology could help resolve the border issue.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, writing by William James; editing by