The Government does not have a clue on a solution to the Irish border problem

Being an earnest seeker after truth I downloaded the full Joint Report of 8 December in order to discover just how the Prime Minister proposed to accomplish the trick of leaving the single market and the customs union whilst still having no physical border between the European Union, ie the Republic of Ireland, and the UK, ie Northern Ireland.

I searched in vain. There are no practical plans whatsoever in the Report. All there is are statements of intent on “the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland,” relying “to a significant extent on a common European Union legal and policy framework,” on being “committed …. to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border,” and “will propose specific solutions,” “will maintain full alignment,” with the necessary EU rules and “will establish mechanisms to ensure the implementation and oversight of any specific arrangement to safeguard the integrity of the EU Internal Market and the Customs Union.” It has the worthy aims of “what” they want, but nothing of “how”.

How can Conservative MPs hail this Report when the Empress has no clothes? Clearly the Conservatives were desperate last week to have any statement by the deadline that the government, the DUP and the government of Ireland would agree to and which the EU would accept. But simply wishing will not make it happen. It merely postpones the day of reckoning over the Ireland question.

It reminds me of a story that Michael Foot told the House when he was Leader of the Opposition about a conjuror in his Plymouth constituency who asked a well off member of the audience to produce a gold watch. Another member of the audience produced a silk handkerchief, which was placed over the gold watch. The conjuror produced a mallet, and brought it down with some force on the handkerchief and the watch, clearly smashing it. He then said, “I’m frightfully sorry, but I’ve forgotten the rest of the trick.” In a sense, that is just what the Government have done with the Irish borders question.

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42 Comments

  • The conjuror produced a mallet, and brought it down with some force on the handkerchief and the watch, clearly smashing it. He then said, “I’m frightfully sorry, but I’ve forgotten the rest of the trick.”….
    He then tried to convince the audience that, if they came back next week, he would’ve figured it all out..
    THAT, in a sense, is just what the Government have done with the Irish borders question.

    THe biggest trick of all is how the conjuror/government manages to convince so many to ‘keep coming back next week’…

  • J.M. Lambillotte 15th Dec '17 - 11:34am

    Great job, Michael. There is no “how” and anyway nothing is logic in the Brexit at all. The sovereignty of UK get worst as Scottish independence fever increases. UK receives a bill + 0£ for the national health. If Brexit was a success, 1 year would not be necessary, logically. The Brexit is the “logic” consequence of Schengen + Euro non membership. We are allied in blood and tears: in the lost battle of France, in the won battle of England. U.S.A. helped both of us a lot. UK brought peace to the continent, EU brought peace to Ireland. Belgian & French veto anticipated great damages for UK in Iraq. We should unite just like U.S.A. with space shuttles, 20 plane carriers, Hollywood, the Silicon Valley, the GPS, 1 soccer team, same bank holidays celebrating internal peace and unity. Free trade with Commonwealth is an illusion, looking into the past.

  • Michael Berridge 15th Dec '17 - 11:37am

    Why do I keep thinking: “If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here”?

  • Geoffrey Payne 15th Dec '17 - 12:52pm

    I have a feeling this was going to be a much longer article but was thwarted by the 500 word limit. However it is certainly worth knowing how much trouble the government are in on this.

  • Peter Martin 15th Dec '17 - 2:28pm

    The nature of the Irish border, which isn’t confined solely to the land border, can only be determined when whatever trade agreement there might be between the UK and the EU is known.

    So Michael Meadowcroft is right, the joint report is just a vague “statement of intent”. It can’t possibly be anything else.

    It just goes to show that trade talks can’t and shouldn’t have been pushed to the bottom of the agenda in the way the EU negotiators in their wisdom (not!) have decreed they have to be.

  • Exactly! Once again the Conservatives’ position has led only into a swamp from which there’s no escape.

    As the contradictions come blinking into the light I suspect aggrieved Brexiteers will blame Theresa May as a Remainer for betraying the cause and she does indeed deserve much blame.

    But in many ways she did what she could. She appointed a solid phalanx of Leavers to head things up and it’s their failures firstly, to have any real idea what they want, secondly to understand the fundamental weakness of their position (they think it’s strong!) and thirdly to negotiate with even the slightest shred of competence that have got them (and us) into the swamp.

    However, for me the key question to ask is why the heck aren’t the media calling out the Tories on this?

    We should be hauling the BBC and others over the coals for simply taking dictation as opposed to actual, umm, reporting. The conflicts are there in plain sight for all to see and they’re not difficult to understand. We should demand they are aired on prime time news.

    Now that might shift sentiment. In fact, I would be very surprised if it didn’t.

  • Peter Martin 15th Dec '17 - 5:37pm

    @ Martin,

    The word “Open” could well be interpreted in somewhat different ways depending on the nature of trade agreement. Also the British Govt can’t give any commitment on just what the EU/Irish republic chooses to do on its side of the border.

    As I understand it, the UK thinking is that local trade across the land border can somehow be separated out from general trade with the EU. That may not be acceptable to EU negotiators. Then there’s the question of just how such an arrangement, if the EU does accept it, will comply with WTO rules. So in many ways the UK is just not in a position to give the cast-iron assurances that many are seeking.

    We’ll just have to wait and see. It’s probably just wishful thinking on your part that the existence of the land border means that the UK just has to stay in either or both of the single market and customs union. As I remember most prominent Remainers were of the opinion that leaving the EU meant leaving the single market.

  • There’s another potential twist on this yet to develop.

    A few days ago David Davis was saying things to the effect that this was a gentleman’s agreement (I don’t have the exact quotes) and, to my ear, signalling that it wasn’t at all quite as final and binding as it might appear.

    If so, he may have been thinking of Harry Vaisey’s definition: “A gentleman’s agreement is an agreement which is not an agreement, made between two people neither of whom are gentlemen, whereby each expects the other to be strictly bound without himself being bound at all.”

    At any rate the EU27 subsequently signaled that this would need to be turned into a binding treaty before long. I suspect they are simply giving Davis enough rope to hang himself?

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Dec '17 - 5:45pm

    The Brexit cards are falling, one by one. The only way out for the Irish border problem does indeed seem to be that Britain should stay in the EU Internal Market and the Customs Union. Already in the proposed ‘transitional period’ the EU rules will apply, with continued freedom of movement for work, and involvement of the ECJ where necessary. What will be left of Brexit? A clamour for the doubtful free-trade deals with the USA, India (if we let more of their workers in), Japan (they are surely happy to have one with the EU), NZ and Australia? An outcry to stop free movement, so our Health Service, hospitality industry and seasonal farming become even more deprived? The wheels are falling off the Brexit bus, and Parliament can park it permanently if it so determines next autumn – thus asserting its own sovereignty and control for the good of the country.

  • Riccardo Sallustio 15th Dec '17 - 6:06pm

    @Gordon @Martin
    I agree with your conclusions. There is a fallback solution ie full alignment of the whole UK with the Single Market and the Customs Union. This term has a specific meaning within European law and it is used in the context of accession treaties with countries which wish to join the EU or in the context of the deal with Switzerland. What the EU is doing is simply seeking to reverse engineering the accession by the UK provided that, if the parties fail to reach an agreement with the UK, then the UK will need to permit alignment in relation to all sectors in its entire territory. This commitment is unilateral and is not formally matched by a parallel commitment from the EU. To make this unilateral undertaking bilateral will cost the UK money by way of contribution to the EU. The related cost has not been determined and it will depend on the extent of the requests from Whitehall ion a pay as you go basis. Then David Davis must have been told by one his mandarins about this, hence his declaration that the Joint Report was simply a statement of intent.
    Michael is right when he says that the Empress had no clothes and was simply desperate to sign anything. Surely there is some lack of clarity but the tone of the discussion has been set. The press fails to understand or doesn’t want to report this.

  • Peter Martin 15th Dec '17 - 6:33pm

    Its probably useful to make sure we know the difference between the single market and the customs union. If the UK were part of the CU but not the SM then the Irish border could just about be described as “open”.

    That’s my guess of what will happen. But its possible it will be called something slightly different in the UK’s case to suit political sensibilities.

  • Katharine
    “Already in the proposed ‘transitional period’ the EU rules will apply, with continued freedom of movement for work, and involvement of the ECJ where necessary.”

    Is that on the UK statute?
    At this moment in time, the only thing which is legal and statutory is that in 469 days we all cease to be EU citizens. EU law does not apply to ex-EU citizens, any more that it does to American or Australian citizens.
    This notion of a transition period and ECJ involvement is at this time no more than a ‘fiction’ inside Theresa May’s head, with no legal basis. I suspect that this ‘fiction’, will have about the same longevity as Theresa May’s residence in Number 10.

  • Tony Dawson 15th Dec '17 - 8:04pm

    Britain’s premier political commentators sum it up in their chorus.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Dec '17 - 8:15pm

    I think much of the media (not the gutter Tory tabloids) has actually been exposing the basic problem for people who want to listen. If you want convergence or alignment or sufficient equivalence or whatever you call it (and I know there are differences but not ones most folk will understand) between Ireland and Northern Ireland you need the same between the UK and the EU; OR you need a regulatory border between northern Ireland and Great Britain (a “border down the Irish Sea”).

    If you do not want either of those you have to accept an Irish border. Both a customs border and a regulatory border. Otherwise the EU will have 300 miles of land border which is neither controlled nor policed which would make nonsense of both the customs union and the internal market.

    Another interesting question is whether the requirement in the Report for an open border across the island of Ireland only applies to the territorial border. Would it also apply to movement of goods by sea or air? And what about movement of services (or even some goods – downloads) by digital means? Having different regulations would make nonsense of it all. (Though it is said that some junior berk in Downing Street did suggest the use of airships to avoid a hard border!) But the border question is not just about local inconvenience and not having structures that can be blown up.

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Dec '17 - 9:37pm

    Tony Greaves – ‘Otherwise the EU will have 300 miles of land border which is neither controlled nor policed which would make nonsense of both the customs union and the internal market.’

    Head to Eastern Europe. You will find an awful lot of EU border that is neither controlled nor policed.

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Dec '17 - 9:42pm

    Katharine Pindar – ‘with continued freedom of movement for work’ No – it goes a very, very long way beyond workers. If we had free movement of WORKERS we probably would just have had a clear REMAIN majority.

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Dec '17 - 9:50pm

    Gordon – ‘Once again the Conservatives’ position has led only into a swamp from which there’s no escape.’

    Whilst I can’t say that I’m very happy with the way that the government has handled all this, I have to rather disagree with you. The Ireland issue is showing up a very big problem with the way the EU has developed. I have long-thought that the idea of a ‘democratic deficit’ is overbaked – the the EU most certainly has a massive constitutional deficit. This is in effect signing up to agreements that can not be reversed. That is a big problem and should trouble anyone, irrespective of their stance on the EU as a set of institutions.

    Put at its bluntest this is not what anyone signed up to. The EU treaty has an explicit leave clause – it specifically is NOT permanent. I expect the EU to respect that clause in both letter and spirit. I agree with you that it’s a swamp, but it is one that should not exist at all. Now I am mindful that a lot of people on here won’t like this – fair enough.

    But successive parliaments have de facto signed away powers that are not theirs to give and that should trouble any serious democrat. Regardless of whether this is all a bit of fun at the Conservatives’ expense.

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Dec '17 - 9:52pm

    Peter Martin – ‘Its probably useful to make sure we know the difference between the single market and the customs union. If the UK were part of the CU but not the SM then the Irish border could just about be described as “open”.’

    Last time I was on the Norway-Sweden border it all seemed nice and orderly (although admittedly this was pre-refugees).

    What you envisage could be named a ‘Norway Option.’ And a very sensible thing that would be too.

  • Tinkerbell will wave her magic wand and a magic border will come into place I know it is so a Brexiteer told me. He then sang the new national anthem “We believe we can fly, we believe a magic border will apply”. Meanwhile in the real world poor Brexiteers tie themselves in knots trying to prove 2 + 2 is anything other than 4. They are struggling to maintain their self imagine, it will get worse.

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Dec '17 - 12:03am

    People who thought there were ‘too many immigrants’ coming to Britain, LJP, weren’t objecting to rich people coming to buy up property here or finance football clubs or invest in industry, nor to students helping to pay for our universities. They were objecting to EU immigrants taking jobs which theoretically were wanted for British workers, with all the side effects of possibly driving down wages, possibly getting council housing and benefits. So of course the objection to freedom of movement was to workers. The corresponding freedom of movement of young British people to go find jobs on the Continent, of teachers and accountants and hairdressers and builders and artists to freely try out working life there, wasn’t a consideration for people who liked or had to stay settled in Britain. Maybe their fears can be alleviated, and freedom and opportunity still be offered to the enterprising.

  • @Peter Martin – “As I remember most prominent Remainers were of the opinion that leaving the EU meant leaving the single market.”

    So did many Brexiteers, but in both cases both sets hadn’t bothered to inform themselves of true legal relationship between the EU and the Single Market/EEA; confusing the terms and conditions of joining the relevant clubs and the necessary rereading of the terms and conditions as they apply to pre-existing members.

    What is going to be interesting is when ardent Bexiteers realise that if they want the favourable trade agreement they’ve been wanting, they won’t be able to escape the Brussels sphere of influence. Which will bring us back to the decision Margaret Thatcher made; it was better to be at the table making the decisions than not…

  • “But successive parliaments have de facto signed away powers that are not theirs to give…”
    I have a lot of respect for Little Jackie Paper’s contributions to this site because they make intelligent points that require consideration, the more so because LJP is on the opposite side of the EU argument to most of us here. I’m not sure about what is implied in this quotation though: is the UK Parliament not sovereign? There is no provision in UK law that any decision of Parliament has to be ratified by any other democratic means. The argument used against the Tory rebels on Wednesday evening was that they were elected on a manifesto that Theresa May is now implementing, to which there are certainly powerful countervailing arguments about MPs being representatives rather than delegates, but is it seriously being suggested, for example, that Margaret Thatcher did not have the right (power? authority?) to take the UK into the Single Market?

  • Andrew McCaig 16th Dec '17 - 9:09am

    LJP,
    Actually Norway is in the Single Market but not in the Customs Union. As I understand it there are customs checks and some restrictions on where goods can be imported into the EU. Hence it is not “frictionless”
    Anyway “full regulatory alignment” means obeying all the rules of the EU, and changing our rules whenever the EU change theirs. The EU will not mind us doing that. Then it means tariff free trade. The EU is only going to give us that if we also accept Freedom of Movement (or at least Labour), and the de facto authority of the ECJ, AND if we continue to make a contribution similar to now. In other words staying in the Single Market. And if we want frictionless trade we have to stay in the CU as well, and cannot negotiate external trade deals..

    Thus all the perceived (if illusory) benefits of Leaving just evaporated last week in an absolute triumph for the EU negotiating team. But we lose the considerable democratic control we currently have through full membership. Another triumph for the EU! Get rid of the awkward squad!
    Last March I had a think about what the EU would want from these negotiations and it is all going very much to plan! We should just withdraw Article 50 while we still have the chance!

  • Andrew McCaig 16th Dec '17 - 9:13am

    Meanwhile we have Ree-Smogg making in clear that a transitional deal with full Single Market membership is unacceptable to him. Yet that is the only deal that makes sense, and the only one that will be on offer. Should be an interesting winter in the Tory Party…

  • Richard Underhill 16th Dec '17 - 9:19am

    “the Empress has no clothes” Not even trademark shoes?
    Wait for the cartoonists to catch up, bearing in mind that Arlene Foster, DUP has agreed.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Dec '17 - 9:34am

    Tony Greaves 15th Dec ’17 – 8:15pm
    Remember the issue about dangerous dogs being brought from Latvia, into Northern Ireland and onwards to Liverpool? It was real and well publicised at the time.

  • “But successive parliaments have de facto signed away powers that are not theirs to give…” LJP
    “but is it seriously being suggested, for example, that Margaret Thatcher did not have the right (power? authority?) to take the UK into the Single Market?” tonyhill

    I think this is an area of debate that has been overlooked as people vent their anger at the EU, it provides an outlet for frustrations and complaints about all that is wrong about the world, yet conveniently allows them to avoid facing up to reality.

    From my readings, I think Margaret Thatcher was well within her power/authority/right as the PM and head of the Executive to join the Single Market and Customs Union, things are a little more problematic with the EU political union, where perhaps we should have had a referendum over the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties, where the question of sovereignty transfer arise.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Dec '17 - 2:05pm

    Roland/tonyhill – In the early 1990s I swore blind we should not have had a referendum on Maastricht. With hindsight I’m embarrassed I could have been so wrong. Just about every problem we have with the EU now is directly a result of not having a referendum in 1992. Just think how much better things would be if that had not been festering. We could have had unquestioned legitimacy for being in or a solid footing in an EEA IN EU OUT deal. Or maybe I’m optimistic!

    To my mind one of the strongest arguments against the EU is that it has proved to be very, very open-ended. I am, of course, quite mindful that many are comfortable with this. However I believe that questions about the constitutional deficit (some might say policy laundering) should be the subject of debate, not blithe assertion. Did, for example people really understand that the EU (via Parliaments) might one day sign us all up to TTIP style courts in a way that is in effect totally irreversible? Would a future elected (say) Corbyn government have been able to reverse TTIP? We are to my mind a very long way from what in the common mind is a ‘trade deal’ and I don’t think some on the REMAIN side here have quite understood that.

    Did Thatcher have the right to sign up to the single market – of course. But this goes some way beyond what we had in the 1980s and to pretend otherwise is short-sighted at best.

    There is an very interesting case just coming out of the ECJ – Taricco (part 1 and 2) – that some people might want to look that up.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Dec '17 - 2:08pm

    Andrew McCaig – ‘Actually Norway is in the Single Market but not in the Customs Union.’

    Yes…hence I used it as my example…or am I missing something here?

    ‘As I understand it there are customs checks and some restrictions on where goods can be imported into the EU.’

    I don’t know a great deal about it, but my understanding is that there are rules about origin of goods. But the point is that Norway is in A customs union, not THE customs union in context.

  • Jackie,

    You seem to want the Norway option but ” don’t know a great deal about it” and that i’m afraid that sums up many Brexiteers, they want something but don’t seem to know much about it. From memory you wanted control on immigration but the Norway option doesn’t give you that it comes with free movement. Norway also gets to pay into the EU budget and implements regulations that it can comment on but not actually vote on. So much for spending more on the NHS or taking back control. I know it comes as a shock to many of the people who voted Brexit, but we are not special, the world does not owe us a living and the EU won’t roll over because we want them too. At the moment the only ones rolling over and playing sit up and beg are Tinkerbell, The Benny Hill Tribute Act with Admiral wee Mogg and the rest of the hard Brexiteers heckling from the side lines.

  • LJP – I was thinking only of the way the negotiations have gone so far with surrenders at each point by Davis & Co. but your point about the constitutional deficit is a good one.

    I’ve never understood why the Lib Dems have always acted only as PR agents for the Eurocrats rather than campaigning for a more soundly based approach. Can anyone explain this?

    I’ve also repeatedly warned that this could only end in tears. Q.E.D.

  • Gordon,

    The problem Jackie has is the constitutional deficit actually grows if we follow the Norway path. Imposing rules made by others with no input into them is a massive step back from what we had. When Latvia has more say in the rules that we need to enforce what could be a more damming statement of lose of constitutional power. So if Jackie is in favor of the Norway option it rather goes against his concerns about “the constitutional deficit” as he’s actually voted to increase it.

  • David Allen 16th Dec '17 - 5:18pm

    Barnier played a blinder when he made the Irish border the crunch issue. He was right to do so, both to minimise the financial damage that Brexit will do to the EU (and the UK), and to preserve peace in Ireland.

    Without Britain’s membership of the EU, the hard Irish border could not have been dismantled, and the Good Friday Agreement could not have been made. If there is a hard Brexit, then a hard border will inevitably have to be restored. The EU would be entitled to insist on border enforcement of any EU customs checks and tariffs which the UK has abandoned.

    Ireland do not want a hard border across the island of Ireland, and Barnier has persuaded the UK to promise that there will not be one. The UK has only two ways it can meet that promise. One is to stay in a customs union with the EU (and perhaps also the single market). The other is to break with the DUP and impose border controls between the Ulster sea ports and airports and mainland Britain.

    If the UK do not quickly accept the customs union option, then verbal battle will commence between the two sides in Ulster. Siren voices will commend Irish reunification as a solution to the Brexit problem, pointing out that opinion polls have shown a slim majority in Ulster favouring that “solution”. Those siren voices are dangerous, because militant Protestants will be prepared to fight against it.

    The worst consequence of Brexit could thus be the breakdown of the Good Friday Agreement and renewed civil war in Ireland. That’s why Barnier must stay tough. Only if the EU enforce a soft Brexit (or no Brexit at all) will the EU avoid a share of the blame for renewed war in Ireland.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Dec '17 - 11:22pm

    Gordon – ‘I was thinking only of the way the negotiations have gone so far with surrenders at each point by Davis & Co. but your point about the constitutional deficit is a good one.’

    I don’t disagree, it is the same point. What we have is an explicit clause in the treaty that envisages a state leaving, but which is proving very difficult to reify. The refusal to hold pre-negotiations was terrible bad faith on the EU’s part to my mind. Now, as I said, I am very conscious that some people are happy with the idea of the EU as a permanent, binding, forever thing and that’s fair enough. But it’s not what anyone signed up to. The open-ended nature of the EU is a serious issue. Indeed looking at places like Greece and the euro where they clearly need a divergent set of policies one can see that the risks of the constitutional deficit are far from theoretical. Past Governments bound their successor in practice. What one makes of that is another matter, but let’s not duck it.

    I don’t think that some in the REMAIN camp have quite understood the significance of a constitutional deficit, as distinct from the overegged democratic deficit. I don’t know in my own head where the line is drawn. But if some people are uncomfortable with the levels of open ended political union in here it’s not hard to see why.

    In the short-term at least EEA IN EU OUT is the only option.

    ‘I’ve never understood why the Lib Dems have always acted only as PR agents for the Eurocrats rather than campaigning for a more soundly based approach. Can anyone explain this?’

    Some of it is just the internet. Give a man a mask and he will speak truth. Give a man a username and he’ll act like a moron. My own feeling is that in the LDP there are some EU hard-remain-true-believers. Fair enough. The majority just have a very rose-tinted view, maybe seeing what we had, not what we have. Some feel the need to define themselves against something at least as much as for something. I’ve nothing against any REMAINER, and I’m sure most are good people. I’ll live out the cause in my own way. I do however maintain that at present the LDP has basically not moved on from the Cameron line and seems unable or unwilling to understand why the Cameron campaign was such a disaster.

  • The future of Ireland is a united island, the future of Scotland is as an independent sovereign state. Perhaps Brexit can be a catalyst for both. Thereby ridding the rest of the UK from Northern Ireland, a drain on the economy and Scotland,arguably economically neutral at best.Brexit could then continue warts and all without being tied to either Northern Ireland or Scotland.

  • Daniel Walker 17th Dec '17 - 7:45am

    @Little Jackie Piper Andrew McCaig – ‘Actually Norway is in the Single Market but not in the Customs Union.’

    Yes…hence I used it as my example…or am I missing something here?”

    You’re missing the fact that, in the quote you replied to, Peter Martin was suggesting the UK being part of the Customs Union, but not the Single Market, the other way round to Norway, hence Andrew’s correction.

  • Michael Meadowcroft 18th Dec '17 - 6:34am

    I have noted all the comments, not least, those who drew attention to many details and nuances of different customs arrangements. These are useful to note but the political ramifications of the Irish situation will come down to the “broad brush” principle of border or no border – as so much of Irish politics has always done. I note that Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, is reduced to insisting that “he is confident there will be no hard border on Ireland despite being warned that the issue ‘remains an issue to be solved,'” (Yorkshire Post, 16 Dec 17).

    Comments on the poor and superficial reporting of much of the media merely confirm the decline in rigorous political reporting in recent years. However, it is worth noting that in its first leader of 16 December 2017, The Guardian commented, “Those choices [on a single market or not] are embodied in the fudge (as seen in London) about Ireland. Either the UK has a border with Ireland and makes trade deals of its own, or it has it has a soft border and remains in the customs union. It can’t have a soft border and do its own thing on trade. The logic of the phase-one deal is for the UK to stay in the customs union. This would appal the Brexiters. But there is an emerging all-party majority for it among MPs. The issue cannot be avoided in phase two.”

    All those passionate for a united Europe which includes the UK, need to keep beating the drum in anticipation of increasing Conservative party disarray and the way opening up for a parliamentary vote rejecting whatever desperate deal comes before it.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Dec '17 - 12:11am

    “It can’t have a soft border and do its own thing on trade.” ??

    In the absence of an agreement after Brexit the UK can have any border it likes subject to keeping within WTO rules. The problem is more the EU’s. Its much more likely they’ll insist on a hard border. In that case the checkpoints will be mainly on the EU side of the border.

  • Andrew Melmoth 22nd Dec '17 - 12:47am

    @Peter Martin
    Do you know what the WTO rules are? If we don’t have a border it means we would have to give zero-tariff access to every country in the WTO. What trade deals do you imagine you would be doing when your first step is to throw away all your bargaining power?

  • Peter Martin 26th Dec '17 - 7:02pm

    @Andrew Melmoth,

    The Lib Dems are traditionally the party of Free Trade so we should aim to reduce Tariffs to as low as possible. Even zero. Why not?

    There is relatively well known theorem which states that ” an ad valorem import tariff (a percentage of value or an amount per unit) will have the same effects as an export tax. The theorem is based on the observation that the effect on relative prices is the same regardless of which policy (ad valorem tariffs or export taxes) is applied.”

    This does mean , perhaps counter intuitively, that it might be better not to retaliate against the EU if they impose trade tariffs themselves. That’s just making life unnecessarily more expensive for ourselves.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lerner_symmetry_theorem

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