( A fifteen-minute read)
Claims that there will or won’t be border controls on the island of Ireland are predictions, not facts, at this stage but Brexit means that the UK’s only land border will also be an external border from the EU’s point of view.
That matters for two main reasons.
One is immigration and the other is the trade in goods, neither of which have many controls on them within the EU.
Any hard border would have massive economic, political and security implications.
Outside the EU’s Customs Union, it will be necessary to impose customs checks on the movement of goods across the border. Because if there is no EU-UK agreement on free trade in goods, there will be some British taxes on imports from Ireland, and vice versa.
There is talk of a deal, that would be confined to goods originating in the UK or the EU.
This is the pattern for the EU’s free trade agreements with countries such as Norway and Canada. Without these ‘rules of origin’, and a way of enforcing them, goods made in a country like China could be imported through Ireland, avoiding UK import taxes.
One way or the other with or without a trade deal, there is still a need for some way of checking on the goods being taken across the border, either to work out the taxes due on them or to verify that they don’t need to be paid.
It’s time to stop the bull shit > so let’s try and sort out the realities from the fantasies.
For there to be no border there will have to have “regulatory alignment” with the rest of Ireland in order to keep the border free of controls. This can only be achieved if Northern Ireland remains in the EU either by uniting with Ireland or breaking away from the UK.
If not Brexit will restore the old border created by the partition of Ireland?
Should arrangements be permanent or temporary? How hard or soft should the border be: electronic, policed or militarised?
The chances of either of these happing are zero.
There was a very strong ethnonational basis to voting in the Referendum.
It seems 85% of Catholics voted Remain, compared to only 40% of Protestants.
I would say that both less-educated Protestants/unionists and Catholics who voted for the UK to leave the EU but undoubtedly did not imagine they were voting for Northern Ireland to become distinct from the rest of the UK?
I would also say that any border no matter what form it takes will undermine the Catholic/nationalist sense of connection with the rest of Ireland?
So alongside the logistical questions – about the technology needed to manage such a porous border – lie these equally important identity issues.
As for Migration:
World War II aside, there has never been controls on migration between the UK and Ireland. People can use the open border to travel illegally from Ireland to Northern Ireland and on to the rest of the UK, and likewise in the other direction.
This is currently addressed by “Operation Gull”, in which immigration officers check passengers on routes between Northern Ireland and the island of Great Britain. This is designed to compensate for the lack of checks on unauthorized travel across the north/south border. Claiming this won’t change after Brexit assumes that these measures will still be enough to police the open border which is totally impossible.
If the UK wants to put restrictions on EU immigration or short visits, that will generate more illegal cross-border movement. At the moment, Operation Gull only has to catch unauthorized migrants from non-EU countries.
There’s never been a situation where Ireland accepted free movement of people and the UK didn’t.
No matter how you address the border Brexit has serious consequences for political stability and has placed the constitutional question, which has largely been parked over the past 20 years, back on the table.
Politically, Northern Ireland can only work on the basis of sharing and interdependence.
The whole ethos of the Good Friday agreement was about breaking down barriers and allowing people to lead their lives on a north-south and east-west access. Yet Brexit entails new divisions and borders.
An outcome in which Northern Ireland continued to participate in the single market would allow Northern Ireland to fully engage in both the EU single market and the UK’s internal market. This can only be achieved through Northern Ireland remaining in line with EU law and regulations. Operating to these higher standards should not compromise simultaneous engagement with the rules of the market in Great Britain.
In this sense, Northern Ireland could be a bridge.
Indeed, a satisfactory compromise around this type of approach could bring much needed political stability and cohesion to Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately, although Northern Ireland overall voted was to remain within the EU Mrs. May bribed the DUP for support to prop-up her minority Tory Government.
In the end, the British Government will endeavor to fudge the Northern Ireland’s current constitutional position by sacrifice the Good Friday agreement in exchange for their whole vision of a glorious post-Brexit future based on Britain’s ability to do great trade deals and be a trusted partner on the world stage.
Yet to get there they now have to start by tearing up two of the most important international deals Britain has signed in its recent history, both of them legally binding.
All human comments appreciated. All Like clicks chucked in the bin.