Bring on the experts! Brexit minister to spend £20 million finding alternatives to Irish backstop

Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay leads his team out of his office including Attorney general Geoffrey Cox. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay leads his team out of his office including Attorney general Geoffrey Cox. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

The Brexit secretary is to call on experts to help develop alternatives to the proposed Irish backstop.

Minister Stephen Barclay and treasury financial secretary Mel Stride will oversee three panels of trade and customs experts, business and trade union representatives, and MPs and peers to help come up with solutions.

The UK and European Union have agreed to consider a “joint work stream” to develop alternative arrangements to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The three panels will help influence the UK’s position in the talks, including looking at how other borders operate and the use of “cutting-edge” technology, officials said.

The three groups are:

• An advisory group of technical experts in trade and customs, expected to include academics and customs brokers

• A business and trade union engagement group to represent firms trading with the EU and the rest of the world

• A parliamentary engagement group to allow Government to consult with MPs and peers

The government will spend an additional £20 million to support the development of ideas which emerge from the work.

A Department for Exiting the EU spokesman said: “There is clear support for finding alternative arrangements to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.

“In adding business and technical expertise on top of civil service resource, we will ensure we are strengthening the government’s efforts to identify the necessary facilitations and technologies.

“The creation of these advisory groups now will mean that we can move at pace once negotiations with the EU begin.”

Brexiteer Michael Gove claimed before the EU referendum that “people in this country have had enough of experts”, with much of their analysis ignored or ridiculed by Leavers since the vote.

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