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Analysis

Brexiters urge ‘imagination’ over Irish plan. It’s fantasy

by Luke Lythgoe | 12.09.2018

When Owen Paterson urged everyone to use their “imagination” over Brexiters’ so-called solution to the Irish border, alarm bells started ringing. Fantasy is their stock in trade. This 19-page Irish border dossier from Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group (ERG) is no exception.

The Brextremists say there don’t need to be any frontier controls immediately after Brexit as we’ll have the same rules as the EU. But if and when our standards diverge, we’ll introduce border checks up to 20km away from the frontier. That would be needed if, say as part of a trade deal with Donald Trump, we wanted to import chlorine-washed chicken from America, which is banned from entering the EU.

The first problem with this “solution” is that it amounts to a harder border than we have today. This is exactly what the UK and EU have agreed must be avoided to preserve peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland. It is a step backwards for the North-South cooperation laid out in the Good Friday Agreement. The EU would refuse to do a deal on this basis.

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The ERG argues that the EU would still have to accept UK goods because World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules say that, where “identical or similar conditions prevail”, the importer must accept the exporters’ standards. There are at least four problems with this:

  • The decision over whether the “appropriate level” has been reached is in the gift of the importer (the EU);
  • If the Brexiters are in charge, product standards won’t be “identical or similar” anyway because they believe in deregulation;
  • WTO rules still allow for “reasonable access … for inspection (and) testing” by the importer, so checks would still be needed;
  • And the WTO itself is being trashed right now by Brexiter pin-up Donald Trump, putting it in an increasingly weak position to ensure fair play.

Yet another problem with the ERG’s non-plan is that it is not clear how these customs checks 20km away from the frontier would actually work. But it is pretty clear it would be harder to catch contraband or substandard goods than if you had the controls at the border.

The EU is already worried about persistent smuggling into the UK. It’s not going to say yes to a new system that amounts to a green light to smugglers. The ERG casually dismisses the issue as a “feature of any border”.

Finally, the ERG only talks about goods, ignoring everything else that crosses borders such as services, professionals and electricity. Martin Donnelly, the former top civil servant in the department of international trade, has explored this in more detail for InFacts.

Paterson described the Good Friday Agreement as having “outlived its use”. It’s unsurprising the ERG report doesn’t take Ireland, and its two decades of peace, seriously.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

6 Responses to “Brexiters urge ‘imagination’ over Irish plan. It’s fantasy”

  • Have a look at the NI border and then measure 20 kms into the North from it. This “inspection zone” would actually amount to a substantial proportion of the North.
    You might as well say these checks could take place anywhere in NI and have done with it, thus avoiding legal arguments about whether a check actually took place 20.1 kms from the border.

    Derry, Strabane, Enniskillen, Newry and Armagh would definitely be in the inspection zone, as might parts of Omagh.

  • ERG do not seem able to keep more than one or, at best, two requirements about the Irish border in their collective minds at the same time. They continually and conveniently forget about the total users of the border…for example people, products, services, etc. And when their limited memories do reach for a solution to goods, they forget that many goods now have inbuilt services. Also, although goods right now may be compatible with EU requirements, there is no guarantee that that would be so just a few days later. In fact, if I were in the smuggling business I would be studying the ERG proposals with great relish. I wonder if these ERG “solutions” could be related to Rees-Mogg moving his hedge fund to Dublin 😉

  • What I find really worrying is that 52% of the UK voters appear to still want br cit based on this blatant and shoddy lying. If these people had any critical thinking in them they would have seen what a charade is being played out with their wishes. And that the only thing that drives their political foremen is the chance of turning the UK into a sponge for illicit money from tax-evasion elsewhere in Europe, a new sort of Switzerland or Monaco, that will be invested outside the UK (Russia comes to mind, hence their investment in time and effort to make things happen), benefit only few in the UK and make those people very rich soon. The rest of us will see our benefits as they are (NHS, to mention but one organization that makes the UK stand out from the rest of the EU) to be starved of investment and then at best be made something that most EU people live with. At worst it will be squandered to US interest as the UK and US love affair gets hold against all predictions. The only interesting thing is what history scientists will make of this monumental folly in a few decades’ time.

  • What this demonstrates very clearly is that the ERG is made up of people who think anything beyond the Home Counties is not worthy of consideration. Ireland and the Border get in the way of their fantasies, so dream up a fresh one, and sell some more snake oil to the idiots who simply can’t, or won’t, see that this is simply more lies on those already circulated to persuade the hard of thinking to vote for it.

  • Can someone explain how brexiters can simultaneously entertain the idea of ‘Taking back control of our borders’ and an ‘invisible border’ on the island of Ireland.
    Maybe it could apply to all UK borders. Welcome to Schengen!

  • The other elephant in the ERG’s room is free movement of people – the pet hate of xenophobic Quitters.
    The hated Eastern European workers/scroungers (depending which mutually contradictory rant you listen to) will be able to travel via Dublin and Belfast to anywhere in the UK!