A business group set up to examine Brexit backstop alternatives will meet for the first time today.
The Business and Trade Union Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group will represent the views of those trading within the island of Ireland and across the Irish Sea.
They will examine work to replace the Northern Ireland backstop by the end of 2020, alongside the Technical Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group, which is made up of experts in trade and customs and met for the first time last week.
Brexit Minister Robin Walker said the launch of the group, which he will co-chair with Business Minister Andrew Stephenson, showed the Government was prioritising a replacement to the backstop.
He said: “The development of alternative arrangements to replace the backstop has been recognised as a priority by both the UK Government and the EU Commission.
“Accordingly, we have a highly-informed group of experts in trade and customs focused on developing and testing workable solutions.
“But it is vital that any possible alternatives to the backstop are informed by the views of those on the ground, whose goods cross the border every single day.
“So I am delighted to chair this important group, which will ensure that the voices of business and trade union representatives are heard.”
The group includes cross-sector representatives from Ireland, Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and will ensure the views of businesses and their employees are represented in this process.
Large companies, who can represent the views of themselves and their suppliers, are represented as well as smaller companies who rely on cross-border just-in-time supply chains.
They will consider how to simplify the movement of goods across borders, including trusted trader schemes and advanced use of data and IT systems.
The business and trade union group is one of three domestic advisory groups that the Government announced earlier this year to help inform its negotiations with the EU on this important issue.
The Government has £20 million of funding available to support the development, testing or piloting of any ideas that emerge from the advisory groups.
The UK and EU have a shared desire to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements to ensure there is no hard border — and both sides have committed to prioritising the development of these in the next phase of talks.