UK to spend millions to ease Brexit red tape for N Ireland

International

FILE – In this file photo dated Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, a woman holds up the British Union and the European Union flags together during an event in Brussels, Belgium. The number of Britons moving to live in European Union countries has soared since the Brexit vote in 2016, a U.K.-German study has revealed Tuesday Aug. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, FILE)

The British government will spend up 355 million pounds ($465 million) to help businesses in Northern Ireland deal with the red tape caused by Brexit, officials said Friday.

Brexit’s supporters, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, say leaving the European Union will be a boon for U.K. businesses. Many economists are skeptical of that claim, and Brexit presents special challenges for Northern Ireland, which shares a border with EU member Ireland.

Britain left the 27-nation bloc on Jan. 31 but it remains bound by the EU’s rules until the end of 2020, when a post-Brexit transition period expires. The two sides are trying to negotiate a new trade agreement before the deadline, but remain far apart on key issues including competition rules and fishing rights.

A withdrawal agreement between the two sides requires the all-but-invisible border between Ireland and Northern Ireland to remain free of customs posts and other barriers. That means there will be new checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.

The British government says these will be minimal, and is setting up a Trader Support Service to help Northern Ireland firms handle customs declarations and other paperwork involved in importing goods. The government says it will commit up to 200 million pounds for the service over five years, and will also spend up to 155 million pounds on new technology.

Friday’s announcements also include 300 million pounds for peace and reconciliation projects in Northern Ireland.

Many in Northern Ireland worry that Brexit could undermine the peace process that ended three decades of violence, by hardening the border with the Irish Republic.

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