The Government’s Brexit plan is dangerous for Ireland

The wheeze the Johnson government has come up with to salvage the “complete UK exit from the EU Customs Union”, having customs controls on companies’ premises, may look clever.  But in a Northern Ireland with every so often bomb and mortar attacks by dissident, extremist Republican outfits like the “Continuity IRA {CIRA}” and/or “Real IRA {RIRA}”on policemen doing their job (or standing at a petrol station in a street), it carries obvious and serious risks, dangers. 

And trying to reconvene the Northern Ireland Assembly, where DUP and Sinn Féin deeply distrust each other about things like green energy projects and use of the Irish language, to have them decide by any procedure about starting, continuing or stopping Johnson’s border policies, where Republicans suspect the DUP could get an advantage or veto, only increases the provocation to dissident Republicans; and could increase their support base.

The first and obvious danger is that, as the Real IRA has already attacked the homes and cars of Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers (as happened on 21 February 2017 so the homes and vehicles of HMCE officers also could be attacked. And that also increases the risk that neighbours and shops near such homes get hurt, are damaged; even more homes and shops are at risk as a result.

You could make PSNI and HMCE personnel move to “safe neighborhoods”; but having the customs controls on company premises (and their ordinary family and social life) means they have to get outside those neighborhoods, where they and their loved ones continue to be at risk. Moving the controls inside those neighborhoods puts the cars and personnel of the firms concerned at risk as well, and the risks for HMCE families remain.

To make it worse, just as RIRA or CIRA this August attacked (with a real bomb) PSNI and Army teams dismantling a hoax bomb on a country road,  they could just as well place a “double bomb trap” near the premises of a firm that needs regular Customs controls. One such attack would scare everybody and thus impact the flow of goods across the Irish/Northern Irish border. And just imagine trying to make all the premises of such firms safe; streets would start to look like fortifications. Everybody is glad that these kind of measures aren’t necessary anymore. It would kill of foreign investment, scare away foreign firms.

And after Harland and Woolf (and the bus manufacturer) closing, Northern Ireland can do without such setbacks.

And thirdly, dissident Republicans could respond by increasing attempts to strike on the UK mainland, like the triple attempts at City- and Heathrow Airport and Waterloo Station in London, and  in Glasgow, last March.

So Mr Johnson, accept a later Brexit date and come up with a more practical plan for present-day Northern Ireland. Or simply stay put in the EU…

 

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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44 Comments

  • And what has Ireland got to do with us exactly? Ireland is remaining part of the EU and as it keeps telling us the EU is fully behind it and ‘looking after it’s interests’. If Ireland feels badly done then perhaps they should do what a normal person would and ask the EU to look after it and not the victim of all this animosity ! Ireland is NOT the UK’s concern as I am concerned only with me and my family of UK people. Time some people woke up and smelled the coffee.

  • Bernard Aris 8th Oct '19 - 1:25pm

    @ Jason,

    being 63 years old, I well remember that when the Troubles started, the IRA very soon was launching bomb and mortar attacks on the British Mainland.
    Beside obvious targets like prominent Tory Airey Neave MP (blown up at the entrance of the Westminster parking garagehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airey_Neave ) you had the 1974 Birmingham Pub bombing (what if it’s your pub next?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birmingham_pub_bombings ); the 1982 Hyde park bombing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyde_Park_and_Regent%27s_Park_bombings and the 1991 Downing Street mortar attack landing in John Majors immeddiate backyard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downing_Street_mortar_attack .

    Since the start of the Irish Peace process, you had the 2001 Birmingham city center bombing by the “real” IRA in 2001 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_Birmingham_bombing .

    Many of those locations were not directly (or even remotely) related to the Troubles, but nonetheless victimized many innocent bystanders in English cities.

    Sure, what happens in Ireland never affects what happens on the British Mainland…. NOT.

  • Rodney Watts 8th Oct '19 - 3:59pm

    @ Bernard @ Jason
    Strangely enough, only just a few weeks ago a friend and I were reminiscing about the Birmingham Bombings. We both heard the explosions, but if it weren’t for the flu my friend would have perished in The Mulberry Bush pub, along with his pal.
    I have not lived in Brum since 1980, but I think there is still a largish population of Irish descent, and certainly when I lived there, there was a small but important population with republican sympathies.

  • John Marriott 8th Oct '19 - 4:00pm

    @Jason
    Your attitude sadly sums up much that has poisoned the debate about the EU. Without wishing to attempt a brief history of one of the major British ‘isles’, let me just say that we owe it to ALL the inhabitants of the Ireland, both north and south of the border, to make sure that the events of barely decades ago are not repeated. Believe me, we on the mainland would not escape, if they were, nor should we.

    It would appear that very few people thought of Northern Ireland when they voted in 2016. It was obviously not seen as a problem back then, just as the EU hadn’t been seen as a problem a few years earlier. Someone clearly hadn’t done their homework! Much as many of us can’t understand why being a Catholic or a Protestant should shape one’s view of the world, we have to hang in there for the sake, yes, of peace. Or should we, as you propose, abandon the Irish to their fate? Perhaps you might agree with what PM Neville Chamberlain said about Czechoslovakia back in 1938 when he referred to “a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing”.

    Well, Ireland is not that far away and many of us, myself included, have a small drop of Irish blood in our veins. We know a bit about the Irish. But, don’t let that worry you. After all, you’ve got yourself and your family of U.K. people to concern you. If you want to include me in that ‘family’, I respectfully decline.

  • Barry Lofty 8th Oct '19 - 4:54pm

    I have very strong ties to Ireland through my wife’s family, we visited her family over many years even when the “troubles ‘ we’re at their height but I loved Ireland and it’s people and the thought that we should abandoned them just like that when the UK had such a large part to play in the cause of the present problems is absolutely abhorrent to me.

  • Thank you Jason, I keep making the point that a large number of Leavers are just ” my little villagers, for people like me” and I’m told “Don’t be silly, they care about the world” and then you pop up and prove me right.
    O and let’s be honest Jason you don’t care about the UK family, you only care about the English and I’d hazard a guess they need to be like you, truely a ” My little village, for people like me” villager.

  • In an occasional posting of brave Brexiteers being thrown under the bus, I present farmers ( OK they didn’t all vote leave but the majority did)

    Farmers will feel “betrayed” by a government plan not to impose tariffs on the majority of goods entering the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the National Farmers Union has said.

    The government has announced it will not tax 88% of imports into the UK.

    The NFU said without a Brexit deal its members face tariffs on exports while overseas rivals will not be taxed.

    “The prime minister has missed a real opportunity to back British farmers,” said NFU chief Minette Batters.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/NFUtweets/status/1181587753479397379

    Bless and bless again, who was to know poor decsions can ruin your life, certainly it must come as a shock to leave voting farmers. Still they may become world leaders in unicorn farming, exotic fairy spices, vegetables and fruits on their sunlit uplands.

  • For an easy summary of the difficulties Johnson & Co face in Northern Ireland the following is quite good, albeit from an Irish source that’s distinctly anti-British (and very wrong about the numbers at last weekend’s march in Edinburgh).

    https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/bits-and-pieces/

    The long and the short of it is that Brexit will inevitably involve border controls somewhere in Ireland because, if the two sides cease to share customs and single market arrangements, there MUST be checks at the regulatory border that creates and those MUST be to the satisfaction of both parties.

    The regulatory border might be between NI and the Republic of Ireland OR it might be between all of Ireland and mainland UK. Boris’ latest plan is a weird amalgam of the two that has all the faults of both alternatives and none of the advantages of either. Businesses in Northern Ireland say with virtually one voice that it won’t work because of the immense cost and complexity burdens it would create for them.

    Even those whose only concern is mainland Britain should bear in mind that they will be paying higher taxes because of the big jump in unemployment that will result – not to mention the additional security costs.

    Before the referendum Boris didn’t understand this very elementary point and stated in terms that Brexit would make no difference to border arrangements despite, Major & Blair, the two earlier PMs most involved in the peace process warning that it would inevitably mean the reintroduction of border controls.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-35692452

    Interestingly, his reply to the next question about farming is all in terms of subsidies. He completely misses the point that their supply chains will be shredded.

    It’s a moot point whether Boris genuinely believes his own fact-free assumptions (in which case he’s dangerously naïve) or has deliberately set out to manoeuvre the EU27 into rejecting what he knows to be unworkable proposals hoping thereby to hoover up the Brexit Party vote and win a quick general election (but he would lose any GE held more than, say, three months after a crash out as the economy tanked).

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Oct '19 - 5:30pm

    @Jason
    It might be helpful if you gave some idea of your age – it would appear that you might be woefully ignorant of the history of the island of Ireland.

    Being well old enough myself to remember the troubles – I would remind you that the then (1998) government of the UK – your country and mine – was a signatory to the Good Friday Agreement – the agreement which has brought at least some peace to Northern Ireland for the past 30-odd years.

    And an important point about the troubles – they began with civil rights protests. It had never occurred to me when those protests became news that there was a part of the UK where for example through endemic discrimination some citizens did not have the same voting rights as I did. Here’s a link for you:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/recent/troubles/the_troubles_article_03.shtml

    It is utterly shameful that the current UK government is displaying such a cavalier attitude (that’s the polite version) towards the Good Friday Agreement and towards the people of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

    The disdain our present government is showing for the Good Friday Agreement is a disgrace to our country.

    If you don’t know anything about the agreement the quick version is here https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-43560637

    and the official version is here:
    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/136652/agreement.pdf

  • I think the key question about Depeffle is.
    Is he an inteligent man playing the fool (aka a knave) or is he a fool trying to play the part of an intelligent man playing the fool ( aka fool). So which is he, a knave or a fool. Personally I fall between the two stools and must therefore put him down as a foolish knave or is that a knavish fool.

  • nvelope2003 8th Oct '19 - 6:04pm

    There was a very bored Daily Telegraph ( yes I know) journalist based in Brussels who made up stories about straight bananas and other such nonsense. He later became Prime Minister as a result of a vote of a few thousand elderly people in an electorate of over 40 million. Because of these stories many discontented or greedy people decided they would be better off out of the EU than inside it and now they have realised they made a mistake but unfortunately the survival of the Conservative Party depends on destroying the Brexit party no matter what the cost to the nation. No I do not feel very sorry for them. This is probably the biggest scam inflicted on the nation since the South Sea Bubble but at least that only affected the wealthy investing class not the whole population. When we have large numbers of greedy people handing over their pension funds to people they have never heard of without even bothering to consult the free Government Pension Advisory service it is not surprising we are in this mess.

  • Yes, frankie. Many farmers will be bitten hard – fatally hard – if Brexit goes ahead; sacrificed to Brexiteers’ romantic attachment to ‘free trade’ (along with, it has to be said, many ‘economic liberal’ members of the LDs).

    Free trade works for the dominant economic and military power of each age – sequentially Britain, USA and now China – and ONLY for that power. It’s never ‘free’ but the dominant power likes to proclaim it so for propaganda reasons while using its muscle (economic and military) to enforce rules that suit itself. China was strongly opposed to buying opium – but gunboats! Indians didn’t want to buy it – but do as you’re told or else!

    For a good contemporary take on how this is working read the always excellent Matt Stoller’s latest piece.

    https://mattstoller.substack.com/p/how-joe-biden-empowered-chinas-censorship?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjo0MDQ5ODgyLCJwb3N0X2lkIjoxMzgwNzYsIl8iOiJ5d2RlMSIsImlhdCI6MTU3MDU1MTkwMiwiZXhwIjoxNTcwNTU1NTAyLCJpc3MiOiJwdWItMTE1MjQiLCJzdWIiOiJwb3N0LXJlYWN0aW9uIn0.hTu5L0H3tUdKHl2HhR8SFUi9i_TrHtst_DrPS4G9mJ0

    And to round it off, read the following from ‘The American Conservative’ on the military angle.

    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/did-china-just-announce-the-end-of-u-s-primacy-in-the-pacific/

    Free trade belongs in the same category as the tooth fairy.

  • Mark Seaman 8th Oct '19 - 6:45pm

    So stay in the EU or face a terrorist campaign? Dutch historians pedalling this perhaps ought to step back from their writings and consider the effects their language might have… as we have all been told.

  • John Marriott 8th Oct '19 - 7:20pm

    Talking of the ‘Irish Question’, it reminds be of the time when it kicked off again in the late 1960s, when a recently elected Bernadette Devlin attacked Reggie Maudling in the House of Commons and British troops were welcomed as peacekeepers on the streets of Belfast and Londonderry, only later to become the objects of hate, and the notorious B Specials and Ian Paisley’s “No surrender”. What hope was there for a peaceful conclusion?

    Those of us, who had grown up after WW2, reckoned that communism would be hard to contain and could in fact win in the end. We also couldn’t see a time when Apartheid would go away in South Africa; but comforted ourselves to some extent by the fact that our living standards were rising. As West German finance minister, Karl Schiller, told us “die Zukunft gehört zu Öl” (the future belongs to oil). Well the Yom Kippur war largely out paid to that prophesy. As Bob Dylan had told us a few years earlier; “The times they are a-changing”; but few of us knew how much.

    So, what joy when the Berlin Wall came down less than twenty years later and with it the chance of communism being victorious. Then Nelson Mandela’s release heralded the end of Apartheid and, goodness me, Blair and co got Sinn Fein and the DUP to shake hands. Happy days, or so we thought. Well, capitalism’s ‘win’ over communism heralded a false dawn with the rise of militant Islam in the Middle East and nationalism and protectionism in other parts, while in South Africa Mandela’s heirs are on the way to ruining his legacy. But, despite all the disappointment, we could still draw comfort from a relatively peaceful and increasingly prosperous Northern Ireland with a possibility in the future of the kind of ties with an increasingly modernising republic in the south which might one day lead to reunification. Sir Edward Carson must have been turning in his grave.

    And now, thanks to a collection of Little Englanders banging the ‘Rule Britannia’ drum, even that is unwinding. Heaven help us!

  • How is Boris Johnson’s proposals showing disdain for the good friday agreement?
    Please show me where in the good friday agreement there could not be any customs controls anywhere on the Island.
    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/136652/agreement.pdf

    The good friday agreement was about the removal of security installations, it was not about customs controls

  • And before anyone jumps down my neck. I am just asking a genuine question and seeking answers as I am confused.
    I have read through the agreement and nowhere can i see the mention of border or customs controls or trade.
    Only in regards to “security installations” and the demilitarisation
    which as far as I can tell, has never been proposed as part of Brexit, so I genuinely want to understand how these proposals breech the good friday agreement

  • John McHugo 8th Oct ’19 – 4:43pm:
    There is another important point that frequently gets forgotten when the Irish border is discussed. Smuggling. If there are different tariffs on the two sides of the border, then smuggling will follow as surely as night follows day. And how, pray, will this be prevented without erecting controls along the border itself?

    So what have you got in mind for smuggling that might, post-Brexit, be more profitable than heating oil? To make a career out of it, it will need to be something that’s not traceable – so that rules out most agrifood and livestock. Smuggling is currently kept under control by intelligence led spot checks.

    ‘Customs crackdown as smuggling of heating oil from the North soars’ [March 2011]:
    https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/customs-crackdown-as-smuggling-of-heating-oil-from-the-north-soars-26713176.html

    Users have been warned that they do not have a personal duty-free allowance to allow them to bring in oil from another EU state.

    A person taking oil across the Border from the North must notify the local revenue office and pay taxes, including the carbon tax, on the oil.

    Larger operators are touring housing estates in towns and villages, mainly in the Border region, to sell the kerosene at cheaper prices.

    But the biggest profits are being made by those, who organise tankers to deliver kerosene, sourced in the North, to forecourts in the Republic and then sell the cheaper product at top prices.

    Cllr Henry Reily [May 2018]:
    https://twitter.com/HenryReillyNOEU/status/998229191433900032

    1000 litres heating oil for £460 in Northern Ireland – 1000 litres heating oil in Republic of Ireland €710 or £621.43 – A saving of £161 for the fill of UK oil but if the Irish customs catch you bringing the oil over the border its big trouble – Yet they say there is no border.
    […]

    Heating oil in the UK is taxed at 5%. In the Republic, it is taxed at 13.5% with a CO2 tax of around 6.5%. This makes up most of the price difference.

  • What does the Good Friday Agreement say about a hard border?

    A lot less than you might think. The only place in which it alludes to infrastructure at the border is in the section on security.

    During the Troubles there were heavily fortified army barracks, police stations and watchtowers along the border. They were frequently attacked by Republican paramilitaries.

    Part of the peace deal involved the UK government agreeing to a process of removing those installations in what became known as “demilitarisation”.

    The agreement states that “the development of a peaceful environment… can and should mean a normalisation of security arrangements and practices.”

    The government committed to “as early a return as possible to normal security arrangements in Northern Ireland, consistent with the level of threat”.

    That included “the removal of security installations”. That is as far as the text goes.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-46988529

    The same article also states the Good Friday agreement states

    The agreement contains a commitment by the British and Irish governments to develop “close cooperation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union”

    As we are leaving the European Union we have effectively broken the Good Friday agreement. Unintended consequences, if only people had thought instead they are reduced to whatabouterry.

  • Welcome to my world John. Tis a hard fact to accept that an not insubstantial number of our fellow citizens are ruled by emotion and not very nice emotions at that. All I can offer as solace is “We can all be idiots, we just need to fight against the fool in the mirror, rather than embracing them, as our poor deluded Brexi’s and Lexi’s have”.

  • @frankie

    “The agreement contains a commitment by the British and Irish governments to develop “close cooperation between their countries as friendly neighbours”
    The Uk can continue to do this outside of the EU the UK / Irish shared history dates back far further than the EU. So i fail to see why us no longer beings “partners” within the EU amounts to breaking the good friday agreement.
    There will always be freedom of movement of people between the uk and Ireland as part of the common travel area agreed in 1922.
    Any customs checks that need to take place because of brexit will not involve the movement of people and thus would not be breaching any good friday agreement.
    There will be no erection of security installations.

    So I really fail to see how any of this can be in Breach of the Good Friday agreement, it seems to me that this is being used as a ploy to keep us in the EU

    A country can not be held to be a member of a club against it’s will, any democratic organisation has to follow the simple rules that a member can join and leave of their free will at any time.
    Surly that is what democracy is all about and the democracy that we all cherish, no matter what side of the brexit fence we sit

  • John McHugo 9th Oct '19 - 9:13am

    @Jeff,

    I’m afraid I don’t see your logic. If the UK (including Northern Ireland) and the EU (including the republic of Ireland) have different tariff schedules – or different standards (e.g. safety standards for children’s toys, which were mentioned on the Today Programme this morning in this context) – there will be money to be made illegally by smuggling the widget in question over the border. QED.

  • @matt ” So i fail to see why us no longer beings “partners” within the EU amounts to breaking the good friday agreement.”

    If the UK leaves the EU, it is no longer a partner with RoI in the EU that is a clear legal breech of the Good Friday Agreement as it currently stands.
    Not saying the GFA can’t be amended – if all sides agree; but I doubt the UK government can achieve that and present it to either the EU by October 17th or Parliament for ratification on the October 19th…

    It really is time for Brexiteers to wake up – there is no good outcome to Brexit, pandora’s box has been opened.

  • @Roland

    “If the UK leaves the EU, it is no longer a partner with RoI in the EU that is a clear legal breech of the Good Friday Agreement as it currently stands.”

    Where in the good Friday agreement does it say that the UK MUST remain a member of the EU? it does not, so therefore it is not clear that this would be a breach.

    The agreement states “close cooperation between their countries as friendly neighbours AND as partners in the European Union”
    The 2 countries can and will maintain a close cooperation through the common travel area that was agreed in 1922 way before the creation of the EU.
    There was nothing in the agreement about trade or customs, however, the UK has put forward proposals where the UK and ROI can cooperate.

    The good friday agreement was about demilitarisation and to ensure that “people” where free to move between the countries without controls. It says NOTHING about the movement of “goods”

    To be honest, I do not understand why the good friday agreement has not been tested in court, we have had case after case to the supreme court trying to block brexit, why have we not had a Supreme court case to judge on whether Brexit and the Governments proposals breech the good friday agreement?

  • Arnold Kiel 9th Oct '19 - 12:25pm

    Brexiters conveniently switch between superficial formalism or ignorant denial to avoid the truth of their folly. The GFA did not have to address commercial borders as it was preceded by SM/CU membership of north and south which, at the time, was not only perceived as irreversible, but also understood as its indispensable prerequisite.

    Every good and lasting agreement, for the avoidance of the misplaced transactional term “deal”, has a letter and a spirit to it, both of which are understood and respected. Consequently, violating its spirit is normally sufficient to break it. This is what Johnson and his supporters are doing, not only to the GFA, but also to the UK’s relationship with Europe and the world at large.

  • Peter Hirst 9th Oct '19 - 12:29pm

    If we accept there can be no barrier to the movement of goods, services and people on the island of Ireland, if we leave the eu Northern Ireland must loosen its attachment to the remainder of the UK. If the Assembly was functioning, it could decide what it wanted. A special relationship between the two parts of Ireland that allows free movement and monitors that movement so that N Ireland becomes an entry point into the UK and vice versa might work.

  • @Arnold

    Question for you.

    Is it your argument that any country that joins the EU can never be allowed to leave if it so wishes?
    Could Czechoslovakia never leave because it has borders with other EU members or spain even?
    I know this is hypothetical but it is an important question.
    Is it the case that once your in, your in for good IF your countries borders are surrounded by other EU member states?

  • Peter Martin 9th Oct '19 - 1:19pm

    As I understand it, the UK is attempting to negotiate a deal with the EU. Not Germany.

    So why all the fuss about a possible spat between Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson? What’s she go to do with it? Shouldn’t it be Ursula von der Leyen making the phone calls?

  • Daniel Walker 9th Oct '19 - 1:46pm

    @matt “Is it your argument that any country that joins the EU can never be allowed to leave if it so wishes?
    Could Czechoslovakia never leave because it has borders with other EU members or spain even?

    I don’t wish to speak for Arnold, matt, but I can’t help noticing that you have committed the logical fallacy of False Equivalence. As far as I am aware, although I could be wrong, none of the other Member States is party to a treaty similar to the GFA, so the situations are not analogous. If Spain left the EU, of course there would need to be border infrastructure between it and (e.g.) Portugal, but it would not imperil a binding international treaty as far as I know.

    Also, it is the Czech Republic and Slovakia, two countries. Czechoslovakia having ceased to exist twenty-six years ago….

    @Peter Martin
    a) The President of the European Commission serves the policy objectives of the European Council (which includes Dr. Merkel, and indeed Mr. Johnson) rather than their own initiatives;
    b) the chief negotiator is Michel Barnier, not the President of the Commission;
    c) The President of the Commission is Jean-Claude Junker. Ursula von der Leyen is the President-elect. Her term starts on Nov. 1st, assuming her Commission is approved by the European Parliament.

    So ringing Dr. Merkel, in an attempt to get her to influence the rest of the Council, is perfectly reasonable (or would be if the UK suggestions were in any way sensible), and ringing Dr. von der Layen would be daft.

  • @matt – I see you don’t explain how a UK having left the EU can still be a “partner in the EU” and thus satisfy the partnership criteria…

  • Matt – Comment of 8th @ 9:05pm. That’s a fair question. I’m not an expert on Irish affairs but I think I can answer.

    The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of 1998 was a pragmatic compromise to end the Troubles. It worked for Loyalists because NI remained in the UK and it worked for Republicans because it removed the hated (and highly visible) security apparatus on the border.

    At an emotional level that usefully fudged questions of identity allowing most (a few dissidents apart) to believe either that nothing important had changed (Loyalists) or that Ireland was in important ways united at last and well on the road to full political union (Republicans). Meanwhile, both sides benefitted from the economic peace dividend.

    At a practical level the GFA was doable because both Eire and the UK were in the EU with, by 1998, common external customs and the single market – the latter resulting from a Thatcher initiative (yes, Thatcher!) to promote free trade within the EU by harmonising regulations. Together these meant no border formalities were necessary allowing it to became invisible for most practical purposes.

    Hence the GFA doesn’t mention, let alone rule out, any future customs controls because the direction of travel was then in the opposite direction – towards integration and the dissolving of the border for most purposes – so it simply wouldn’t have been considered.

    However, if the UK crashes out of the EU, the border instantly springs back into being, as a full customs (tariffs) & regulatory (single market) one. That would force the reintroduction of full border controls, totally demolishing the context that enabled the GFA to exist.

    To get around this, ERG ‘Ultras’ have repeatedly promoted suggestions contained in a report by the grandly-named ‘Alternative Arrangements Commission’, but actually a highly partisan think tank whose ‘solution’ to the border issue has been comprehensively debunked. See, for example, the dismissal below (by a Brexiteer and former Farage advisor, no less!) which has links to the AAC report itself and to Manufacturing Northern Ireland’s demolition of it (the latter is well worth reading).

    http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=87294

    So, hard Brexit means hard border. But see Boris’ promise in the short video linked in my first comment.

  • @Daniel Walker

    And as i keep pointing out, nowhere in the GFA does it state that there can be no border or customs controls. all it states is the removal of security stations.
    The GFA was about the “people of Ireland and ROI” being able to move freely between the two countries. It had nothing to do with goods

    @Roland
    As I said before
    The UK and ROI can continue a “close cooperation as neighbours” without the “partnership” of being eu member states.
    The Common Free Travel area that dates back to 1922 is part of that “cooperation” as neighbours. The Uk has agreed to regulatory alignment on goods for NI with the ROI that is cooperation, although the roi and the EU do not appear to want to cooperate at all.
    No country can be forced to remain a member of a club or institution if it no longer wishes and must have the right to leave.
    I do not believe any of the proposals put forward by the Government breeches the GFA and I wish that someone would bring a court case forward to test this treaty.
    If it were the case that it would represent a breech then obviously the GFA would need to be renegotiated and rewritten.

  • nvelope2003 9th Oct '19 - 4:55pm

    The Conservative peer Lord Caine has called for a campaign to persuade the young people of Northern Ireland of the value of belonging to the UK. I wonder if he realises that to keep N Ireland in the UK costs the British more than our contribution to the EU which is supposed to be insupportable despite the benefits it confers. Since a large portion of the people of Northern Ireland do not want to be in the UK would it not make more sense to persuade the young people there that it would be better if they became part of a United Ireland so that they would remain part of the EU as they voted for in the referendum and avoid all the hassles of having a border ?
    Could someone please tell me what benefit the mainland British get from owning the Northern part of Ireland ? I have never understood the point of it and even Churchill was prepared to give it to Southern Ireland in return for help in WWII although De Valera turned down the offer. They might need all the money they can get after Brexit.

  • Peter Martin – “As I understand it, the UK is attempting to negotiate a deal with the EU. Not Germany.”

    Exactly so. Yet Boris and other Leavers have repeatedly tried to go around Barnier and deal directly with Merkel, Macron et al.

    At the outset the argument was roughly:
    We have a huge deficit with Germany (e.g. in cars) > the big German car makers will tell Merkel to arrange a good deal for the UK to protect their market > Merkel will so instruct the EU bureaucracy > a good free trade deal is soon arranged > everyone lives happily ever after.

    That didn’t happen for several reasons.

    Firstly, Farage/Boris & others were projecting onto Merkel and the EU their own neoliberal mindset, namely that it’s big companies that call the shots and politicians’ job is to smooth their path without government getting in the way. Similarly, the bureaucrats are expected to be compliant rather than professional.

    That’s not generally how it works. Boris & Co are behaving rather like medieval barons at a time of a weak monarch, recognising no checks or balances and doing everything for their own fun, profit and dynastic advantage – and never mind the poor peasants.

    Secondly, the initial argument was plain wrong. It was eventually revealed that the German car makers’ priority was preserving the single market rather than the UK market. I had already worked out for myself that that would be the case before I read it so it’s clear that any pre-Brexit homework was missing in action.

    It’s a bit of a mystery why so many Tories are so hostile to the EU. My tentative theory is that those that are share a class culture (learned at Eton presumably) that says they are entitled to rule the world. That was – sort of – how things were within living memory. If so, it must be irksome to have to learn the ways of the EU (not taught at Eton), to negotiate with others as equals and to compromise. It’s all of a piece with the way domestic UK governance has been made more top-down and centralised over the last 40 years.

    Perversely, I suspect that many who voted for Brexit did so because they were persuaded that their problems spring from the EU. It’s certainly not ideal and should be reformed, but the greater cause is 40 years of neoliberalism from the perpetrators of Brexit.

  • Peter Martin 9th Oct '19 - 8:02pm

    @ Gordon,

    “Yet Boris and other Leavers have repeatedly tried to go around Barnier and deal directly with Merkel, Macron et al.”

    So you’re saying that if they hadn’t, Merkel and Macron would have taken a back seat?

    That’s not how the EU works. We saw that during the 2015 Greek crisis. There was a dispute between Germany and Greece. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of that, it should have been been settled through the European courts with the involvement of the European Parliament to try to help the two sides reach a settlement.

    We all know that didn’t happen. The EU put the German govt in the driving seat and they beat the Greeks into submission.

  • matt 9th Oct ’19 – 11:02am
    I do not understand why the good friday agreement has not been tested in court…

    The Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement is not legally judiciable; hence Ireland pushing to have future obligations enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement which would be an international treaty…

    ‘What Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal would mean for Ireland’ [January 2019]:
    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/what-britain-crashing-out-of-the-eu-without-a-deal-would-mean-for-ireland-1.3768269

    And, he [a Northern political scientist] argues, that, unlike the Belfast Agreement, such obligations would be legally judiciable if enshrined through the Brexit agreement.

  • Gordon 8th Oct ’19 – 6:06pm:
    Free trade works for the dominant economic and military power of each age – sequentially Britain, USA and now China – and ONLY for that power.

    Which are the wealthiest countries in each continent as measured by GDP per capita (excluding oil wealth)? North America? It’s the United States. South America? Chile and Uruguay. Asia? Singapore and Hong Kong. Europe? Luxembourg and Switzerland. Africa? Mauritius and Botswana. What have all these countries got in common? In their respective continents they are ranked at or near the top for…

  • @Matt – “As I said before…”
    Yes I get there are many meanings that can be applied to ” close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours”, however, once again I see you fail to understand the significance of the additional caveat “partners in the EU” that must also be satisfied.
    Yes the GFA presumed, reasonably at the time, that both the UK and RoI would continue to be members of the EU. The UK leaving the EU clearly breeches the GFA as it stands, as the UK will no longer be a partner in the EU. No one is forcing the UK to remain in the EU, however it is in Johnson’s power whether he does or does not go for the nuclear option. Brexit, particularly a no deal will break a lot of things very quickly ie. within days and weeks not years.

  • I wonder what the EU’s position would have been on the GFA back in 2008 when we had the financial crash, if the Roi was in no other position other than needing to leave the EU.
    Do we think the EU would have been saying to the uk, you cannot have customs controls with the ROI because of GFA.
    Call me cynic but somehow I think the EU would have been making a whole load of different arguments

  • Matt,

    Your talking gibberish and fantasy again. Why would the Irish Republic have needed to leave the EU in 2008? I’ll give you the correct answer, not the fantasy “what if “made up in your head answer, they wouldn’t. Greece was in a much worse position than Ireland and they haven’t left the EU, why they didn’t even leave the Euro (and we didn’t bail out Greece).

    I’m afraid your desire for Brexit has galloped off into the world of “what if” and even more extreme fantasy. Try to reconnect with reality if you wish to be taken seriously or accept your fate of being thought off as yet another of the “my little villagers, with a tin foil fetish” sort of poster (of which we have many).

  • Poor Peter,

    Your off script all brave Brexiteers know the EU if the Fourth Reich and Merkel runs it. Why they are always parroting that, you can’t now say

    “As I understand it, the UK is attempting to negotiate a deal with the EU. Not Germany.

    So why all the fuss about a possible spat between Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson? What’s she go to do with it? Shouldn’t it be Ursula von der Leyen making the phone calls?”

    Because if Merkel isn’t the new fuhrer why all that guff spouted by your fellows would be well lies. Are you telling me your fellow travellers are liars Peter, surely not.

  • @frankie

    Why is it gibberish?

    Yes it was a hypothetical question, but that does not mean that it could never happen.

    Any country could decide to leave the EU in the future, roi, Greece, Hungry etc
    And my argument is, if it was the roi deciding to leave the eu then the eu would be making a whole different set of arguments about the gfa to suit their cause and if you do not believe that to be correct then I am afraid it is you who is wallowing in to much of that fairy dust

  • @matt – Yes any country could choose to leave the EU in the future. However, given the utter b*lls up the Conservatives have made of matters, we can expect them to take a more rational approach and have their ducks all lined up in a row before they commence the Art.50 process.

    Remember the mess the UK is currently in, is totally due to fools rushing in and invoking Art.50 before they had any concrete idea of the desired outcome.

    Given how much Boris is adhering to May’s plan with respect to Parliament and deadlines, I do wonder whether in fact the intended outcome is to revoke, just that it needs to look like he was pushed into it. Suspect the truth will be even stranger..

  • Peter Martin – Brexit and the Greek crisis simply aren’t comparable.

    For one the Greek crisis was essentially ‘internal’ to the EU. Greece never contemplated leaving the EU nor even the euro, so it was an ‘internal’ matter between some of the EU’s strongest members (mainly France and Germany) and one of its weakest. Also, history shows that large amounts of unpayable debt virtually guarantees everyone (especially creditors) will behave very badly indeed.

    So, those running the institutions inevitably danced to the tune of heavyweights France & Germany.

    Conversely, for the 27 remaining countries Brexit is, in a manner of speaking, an ‘external’ issue. They all want to preserve the basic institutions, especially the customs union and single market (but would ditch the euro if only they could work out how technically. There MUST eventually be a resolution to that). They know that by combining they are strong actors on the world stage but that separately they would be weak. That doesn’t mean they all see the EU as ideal, but they do understand that much of their prosperity depends on the diplomatic and trading relations it enables.

    Hence, the leaders were able to agree a clear brief for the civil servants. Hence, throughout the last 3.5 years they have been totally united whereas the UK side has been a chaotic – principally because of discord among Brexiteers. Many live in cloud-cuckoo land and can’t agree a workable plan among themselves. We would be out by now had not the ERG ultras consistently voted down every compromise plan.

    Separately, I am puzzled by your doughty support for Brexit. From your many comments I believe you to be strongly against neoliberalism in any shape or form, yet I see Brexit as a deeply neoliberal project. Its strongest advocates are the far-right, funded in large part by dark money and who tend to favour policies such as privatising the NHS, tearing up regulations and reducing taxes for the rich – a policy set that’s been failing the 99% for 40 years.

    So why do you support Brexit?

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

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