Britain’s Brexit Secretary has said he is "optimistic" about maintaining an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic following the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

But David Davis said he did not envisage a special arrangement for Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, which might keep the province inside the EU's Customs Union, as part of the Brexit deal.

Mr Davis told the House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee that the British government was "determined" to keep an open border, with no fences and no checkpoints, dismissing suggestions that this would create a route into the UK for people trying to evade post-Brexit immigration controls.

He said the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and the Government shared this goal, making an agreement likely.

One possible model for the future border was the very lightly-controlled border between Norway - which is outside the EU and the European Customs Union but part of the Single Market - and EU member Sweden, he told the cross-party committee.

Mr Davis said the open border allowing easy passage of people and goods between the Republic and the North was "a very important part" of the peace agreement to end the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

He added: "We are determined to maintain that as an open border.

"I am optimistic that the EU will be helpful to us on this. Michel Barnier is also very seized of this. When I saw him, we didn't talk about the negotiation but he did raise out of nowhere his involvement in it and his commitment to it.

"It gave me a degree of comfort that we should be able to do this in some way."


He added: "When I went to Dublin, they were equally keen to maintain this. We may have discussions with them about their own incoming security, so we have got at least some watch-list there, but that's for them to decide, not me."

The UK and Irish Common Travel Area was already recognised in the EU's Amsterdam Treaty, he pointed out.

The prospect of people using the Irish route to get in the UK was "not a big issue", he said, adding: "People say 'Won't Ireland be a route into Britain?' There are 50 million people landing at British airports every year. It's a very long-winded way to get into the UK to come via Dublin.

"If you want to get in, you come as a tourist and stay. That's what happens. I don't see a circumstance where we are going to stop tourists at all. We are going to have loads of people coming in and out of Britain."

Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry asked whether Northern Ireland and Gibraltar could get their own Brexit deals tailor-made to their particular circumstances.

But Mr Davis replied: "I would be loath to go down that route. I think it is important for the people of Northern Ireland to feel themselves as part of the United Kingdom until they decide otherwise, and similarly for the people of Gibraltar."

The Government was "looking at all options" and was not ruling out separate deals at this stage, said Mr Davis.

But he told Ms Cherry: "I don't see an option that meets what you describe."