Government plans for tariff-free movement of goods across the Irish border into Northern Ireland after a no-deal Brexit could be legally challenged, the Environment Secretary has said.
Michael Gove said Northern Ireland’s agriculture and food industries could be at a “significant” disadvantage if Britain leaves Europe under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
The Government plans to allow free trade on certain goods moving into Northern Ireland from Ireland as part of its no-deal measures.
But Mr Gove told the environment select committee that could be open to a legal challenge because it would not apply to other countries.
He said: “We believe there are specific exemptions because of the broader political and security situation in Northern Ireland underpinning the Good Friday Agreement which mean that we can be allowed to do everything that we can.”
He said the situation could not be kept “indefinitely” and other countries could have “an arguable case” to the WTO against the plan.
Mr Gove added: “It could be the case that they (the Republic of Ireland) might wish to impose checks on their side of the border and indeed tariffs while we would not be imposing checks and not imposing tariffs.”
Describing the potential impact of a no-deal as “significant”, he said: “It all depends on what the Irish government and the European Commission decide to do, but it could for example have a significant impact on the movement of dairy produce in particular.”