Thursday, 7 December 2017

Shambolic Shenanigans Over Mythical Hard Irish Border.

The Brexit debate seems to descending into a new low level of debacle with the controversy over how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the EU post-Brexit: a hard border that there is absolutely no need for.

Promises of handing over 50 billion of UK taxpayers money to EU without any clarity on why, or what that sum is for, seems outrageous when UK Health and Education are in such dire need. My brain can't even begin to fathom £50 billion. Also talk of remaining subservient to the European Court of Justice during an indefinite so-called transition period seems to go against the democratic wish of the UK voters. Sovereignty and being able to hold our lawmakers and government accountable was the primary reason for the Brexit vote.

Perhaps some method in the apparent madness of those two issues will be explained in due course but the debate around this threat of a hard Irish border, and the way the debate has been handled, just seems like futile game playing for purpose of obstruction.

There does seem to be, finally, some recognition of the Common Travel Area between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland which when understood explains why the movement of people within these islands should not cause serious difficulty.

 The significance of CTA has not been highlighted enough in the Brexit debate and even in the wider constitutional debate around Northern Ireland. All of us on the island of Ireland should cherish the fact that we live within the CTA and contemplate the new opportunities that might transpire post-Brexit.

CTA means a resident of Belfast or Glasgow can go work /live in Cork and a Kerry man can do the same in the Orkneys or Cornwall. This agreement dates back to 1923, confirmed and embellished by various recent agreements and will still be in place post-Brexit.

Also ROI, like UK, is not part of the Schengen Agreement. This means all visitors get checked upon entry at ROI or UK ports. Commonsense collaboration between authorities should therefore necessitate recording all arrivals and the sharing of this information when required. EU nationals living and working in ROI will of course be free to visit UK as tourists but will need either UK residency status or permits to live and work here.

With that reality, seemingly, being now understood and accepted that just leaves the transport of goods between UK and EU as an issue.

For customs we now live in a high tech era. Goods can be checked any time, at any stage of transaction, with seller, shipper and buyer.  For large commercial shipments the easily accessed online documentation should mean hassle-free transporting of goods.  Perhaps there would need to be occasional inspections of freight vehicles but CTV footage at land border between NI and ROI would allow authorities to check vehicle registrations and what goods they have registered by checking online.

Should inspection of any vehicle be considered necessary this would not have to be necessarily carried out at a border crossing if it was going cause obstruction to other cross-border traffic.

I have noted that debates on this subject now usually end with “what if someone brings a car boot full of French wine from ROI into NI?” or “what if someone brings a boot load of American chlorinated chicken across the border into the ROI?”

While enterprising smugglers may hope for new business opportunity I doubt very much they will get rich enough to justify their hassle and risk.  Should the EU impose significant tariffs on wine or other products, we will no doubt be able to purchase products of similar quality outside the EU at cheaper prices.

And why would anybody on the island of Ireland want to buy cheap American chlorinated chicken when they could buy really cheap locally mass-produced non-chlorinated chicken? There are plenty of other affordable high quality goodies that we will be able to purchase, once we have left the EU and have tariff-free trade arrangements with USA and Canada - wine from California and maple syrup from Quebec for instance.

No, I’m sorry but I don’t understand how the EU have managed to spread the fear of a hard border in Ireland to such effect. Well, I do understand how the EU operates: what I don’t understand is how they are managing to get others sucked into their threats and manipulation.

Following Brexit the simple solution would be some sort of free trade agreement or customs partnership, if you like, between EU and UK with no tariffs on goods.  But of course the EU will resist this, even though we purchase more from them than they do from us, as they feel the need to punish the UK for Brexit.  This is more of a dilemma for the EU and their 27 states, should EU turkeys vote for Christmas, than it is for the UK.

In the event of a no deal between EU and UK it should be simple enough, if the will is there among the ruling elite, to come up with a creative simple customs agreement between UK and ROI.

Theresa May and her team should call the EU’s bluff and have faith that commonsense economics will determine the future trade deals we will have with the EU. In other words, just get on with delivering the democratic wish of the people and cut out the shambolic shenanigans over a mythical hard Irish border.

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