EXPERTS have dismissed claims by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack there will be no customs checks for goods crossing the Irish Sea under a Brexit free trade deal.

The Tory MP told MSPs last week he believed administrative processes for goods could be done electronically through a “smart border”.

When challenged over whether this could be achieved by January, as the UK Government has previously admitted putting technology in could take five years, he suggested a free trade deal based on Canada’s agreement with the EU would remove the need for customs checks.

He said: “If we have a comprehensive free trade agreement, Canada-style, that resolves the issue and that is what we are working towards.”

Jess Sargeant, researcher at the Institute for Government, said it appeared the Scottish Secretary “doesn’t really understand the deal the Government has signed up to”.

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She said: “A zero-tariff free trade agreement would eliminate the need for any UK goods travelling from GB to NI to pay tariffs even if they are intended to end up in the EU. But there would still need to be some customs checks to ensure that only goods originating from the UK were benefitting from tariff-free access, so this will not eliminate the need for customs processes altogether.

“As well as customs, there is also elements of regulation and the possible need for regulatory checks which he doesn’t seem to have considered in his comments.”

Under the Brexit divorce deal struck with the EU, Northern Ireland will remain in the UK customs area.

However, EU procedures will apply to goods arriving there to prevent the possibility of the reintroduction of any kind of border between the north and south of Ireland.

Boris Johnson has previously pledged “unfettered access” for goods crossing the Irish Sea.

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But the EU recently warned if the UK does not begin preparing for checks it will jeopardise talks over the future relationship, which got underway last week.

Dr Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, said a Canada-style deal would still be a “hard Brexit” and damaging to levels of trade between the UK and the EU.

“To assert there won’t be customs checks and there won’t be customs checks in the Irish Sea is just not true,” she added.

Scottish Green external affairs spokesperson Ross Greer, who questioned Jack over the customs issue, said the UK Government was still living in a “fantasy world”.

He added: “Everyone from the EU to Northern Irish business groups to even the DUP is telling them that, due to the deal they agreed, there will be a very real customs border in the Irish Sea.

“As always with Brexit though, it might turn out fine for their rich pals but it will be ordinary people in Scotland and Northern Ireland carrying the cost of this mess through increased prices, job losses and shortages of some products due to queues of lorries at Stranraer and Larne.”