By Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP
I’ve just got back from Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe, handling titanic volumes of freight from all over the world. What is absolutely fascinating is the speed with which the Dutch handle these goods. Get them from ships, onto trucks, onto railways and onto barges, and they use techniques, using pre-clearance, the RECS system for Point of Origin, and it works.
All this we put in the ERG paper, all the stuff about the border. What is fascinating is that 2-3% of goods which are sensitive (meat products, fish products) are actually physically inspected. But, the inspection point, the border inspection point is 40 kilometres from the dock, where I saw these goods being landed.
So, we are very clear, we have a solution, a long-term permanent solution, using existing tried and trusted techniques, used by the most experienced, freight forwarding and customs clearance people in the world, and that would not just resolve the thorny issue of the Northern Ireland Border, but also, it would give a very stable system for other borders such as Calais/Dover.
It would open up the immediate prospect of taking up the European Unions generous offer of a very wide-ranging Free Trade Deal back in March. We can forget Chequers, we can forget faffing around, messing around with the Customs Union, all sorts of ways which the European Union doesn’t like. We could offer them stability on our borders, clear, working systems that I’ve seen in action, and we can go for a Free Trade Deal, and have it done, rapidly, by next year.
I wish the Government would get on with it.