As it stands a border cannot be avoided.
In the Brexit debate it is not just what it is being said but also who says it that is important.
So if, just days ahead of the decision to move to the next phase of talks, the Irish or the EU negotiators had made the following claim they would have been derided from the Leave wing.
But this comment is from the Westminster Committee on Exiting the EU in its most recent progress report:
“We do not currently see how it will be possible to reconcile there being no border with the Government’s policy of leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union, which will inevitably make the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland the EU’s customs border with the UK”
It is the nub of the whole thing and while the committee recognises the governments public rejection of a customs border they add that its proposals to avoid it are untested and speculative. And therefore it goes on to “call upon the Government to set out in more detail how a “frictionless” border can in practice be maintained with the UK outside the Single Market and the Customs Union.
The Government will have hoped its recent upping of the divorce monies and progress on citizens rights would have allowed them to push through to the next phase, arguing that the border issue needs to be discussed more thoroughly in the context of trade. The report will give cover to the Irish in particular who have been coming under fire in recent days for publicly hardening their border line.
Perhaps ironically the Leave members, a minority on the committee, criticised the vote that led to its publication.