What’s on at Conference today? LDV on the Fringe

Here is today’s shameless plug for the events LDV is putting on or helping to run.

At 1pm in the Bayview 2 at the BIC, we’ll be looking at the effect of Brexit on the Irish border and on Gibraltar. We have an incredibly illustrious panel. David Ford was until last year leader of the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland and is a former Justice Minister. The Hon Joseph Garcia MP is the Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar. I’m old enough to remember when the border between Gibraltar and Spain was closed. Being part of the EU sorted that out and Brexit casts a huge shadow over the daily lives of people on both sides of that border. Alistair Carmichael will be putting the party’s view. And if that wasn’t enough, we have scones. Lots of them. When we were thinking about refreshments, we thought they would be a bit different, but I thought it would just be a rather unimpressive plateful of miniature scones with a scraping of jam and cream. At our fringe last night, we had the most amazing spread. Large, warm fruit scones with huge bowlfuls of clotted cream and jam to help yourself to. They were utterly delicious and I didn’t need any dinner after eating one and a half of them – which is lucky because I didn’t have time to eat before the disco anyway.  I apologise to those I have offended by doing the jam and cream this way round. I’m from Scotland. You have to make allowances for these things. David Ford gave his perspective on the Irish border situation here.

Although some nationalists are suggesting that Northern Ireland should remain within the Customs Union while GB leaves (citing our vote for Remain), this would be at least as destabilising from a unionist perspective as border posts would be to nationalists, and would also create major difficulties for trade between the constituent parts of the UK.  While there may well be a need for a special deal for Northern Ireland, that is not the same as special status.

Despite the constitutional position, recent years have seen increasing integration of business and public services across the island of Ireland.  Justice agencies work in partnership to fight terrorism and organised crime.  We have a single energy market, significant cross-border supply chains (especially in agri-food), shared provision of acute hospital services.  Business regulation is different in Northern Ireland from that in England, Wales and Scotland.

All of that leads to the possibility that Northern Ireland could remain in the Single Market, even if the rest of the UK left.  It would be a unique arrangement, but might be a way of squaring the circle.

The second event I want to bring to your attention is the Lib Dems 4 Seekers of Sanctuary event in the Branksome Suite of the BIC between 19:45 and 21:00.Professor Brad Blitz of the Migration Observatory in Malta and Professor Ruvi Ziegler, Associate Professor in international refugee law consider failed and successful models for refugee protection. Professor Ziegler wrote here  about some of the issues.

Why do refugees arrive in European countries illegally? First and foremost, because absent humanitarian visas, they cannot arrive legally. In X and X v. Belgium, the ECJ held that Member States are not required, under EU law, to grant humanitarian visas to persons who wish to enter their territory in order to apply for asylum (though they remain free to do so based on their national law). The Christian family from Aleppo that was refused a humanitarian visa by the Belgian embassy in Beirut will need to find an (illegal) way to reach safety. Regrettably, the ECJ did not follow Advocate General Mengozzi’s compassionate interpretation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, contending that the right to asylum under the Charter must be effective.

Worse still, an international carrier failing to check that a traveller holds a valid visa is liable to sanctions under EU law, so an airline would not fly an Eritrean to Rome without one. Did you ever ask yourself why you and I can pay less than 100£ to cross the Mediterranean safely, but refugees pay smugglers thousands of pounds for a precarious crossing on a rubber dinghy?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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