Derry dog walkers may be asked for ‘passports’, says customs expert

Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Dog walkers could be asked for pet passports and helicopters deployed to stop smugglers on the Derry/Donegal border in the brave new post-Brexit world.

That’s the sober assessment of EU customs expert, Michael Lux, who outlined some of the practical implications Brexit will have for the North West, if it goes ahead, in extraordinary submissions to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) last week.

Mr. Lux, an ex-European Commission customs head, warned Brussels will insist Dublin enforces EU rules regarding the movement of animals across the border, including the hundreds of pet dogs walked in and out of Donegal from Derry every day.

“We were joking about the case that a Northern Irish person has a walk and takes a dog over the border,” said Mr. Lux.

“There are specific rules on what kind of document you have to have if you bring your dog from outside the Union.

“You need to have a specific document for that. I have horses. If you bring a horse over the border, even by riding over the border, you must have a specific document with you.”

Mr. Lux warned the southern authorities will risk infringement proceedings from Brussels if they don’t properly police the border.

“How much Ireland is going to enforce that is a second question. What I can tell you is, if Ireland systematically does not enforce the EU rules, it will risk an infringement procedure,” he warned.

Committee member Sylvia Hermon suggested that a scenario whereby dog walkers would be asked for papers at Coshquinn, Molenan or Lenamore, would be totally unworkable.

She said: “I cannot imagine that there has to be a form filled out when a dog runs from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland. This is just unenforceable.”

But Mr. Lux insisted: “You are saying so. I am just telling you what the EU rules are.”

Fears were also expressed that Brexit will be a major opportunity for smugglers.

Mr. Lux suggested helicopters may have to be deployed to police the 300 border crossing points.

He said trucks using roads with no customs offices could either be detected by helicopter or by electronic cameras.Ms. Hermon expressed alarm at the prospect of helicopters being used suggesting this could have serious political implications.

“Mr. Lux, there was a suggestion that there was going to be, heaven forbid, a helicopter flying about. In the terms of the border that we are talking about, that would be very sensitive, I have to say. It would be very sensitive,” she warned.