Theresa May Suggests US-Canada Style Border For Ireland Despite Armed Guards And Checkpoints

For the last two years the United Kingdom has insisted that there will be no new imposition of a formal border around the UK’s territorial outpost on the island of Ireland, despite the country’s troubled decoupling from the European Union. As recently as last Friday, Theresa May, the lamest of lameduck prime ministers, indicated that a favourable solution to the anomalous position of the Six Counties was simply a matter of discussion and compromise between London, Dublin and Brussels. However, when quizzed on the details of that solution, the minority Conservative Party government – or competing factions of it – has a habit of offering up confusing and contradictory statements.

Monday’s debate in the House of Commons was a perfect example of this, when the Tory leader rejected the idea of a Canadian-style trading relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union while favouring a “soft border” in the north-east of Ireland – and by extension with the EU – similar to that between Canada and the United States. That is, until an opposition MP pointed out that the latter frontier is regulated by armed customs guards and law enforcement officers manning dozens of official crossing-points.

The Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May)
There are also some hard facts for both sides. First, we are leaving the single market. [Interruption.] In certain ways, our access to each other’s markets will be less than it is now. We need to strike a new balance. However, we will not accept the rights of Canada and the obligations of Norway.There are tensions in the EU’s position, and some hard facts for it. The Commission has suggested that an “off the shelf” model is the only option available to the UK, but it has also said that in certain areas, none of the EU’s third country agreements would be appropriate; and the agreement envisaged in the European Council’s own guidelines would not be delivered by a Canada-style deal.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
The Prime Minister has consistently said that she wants a unique Brexit trade deal for Britain, and she has said again today that Canada and Norway are not the models for us. Is she aware that Angela Merkel has pointed out that Norway has a population of only 4 million, and Canada has a population of only 36 million and trades with the United States?

The Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May)
She and others have all been clear that, as we look to the future relationship, we must recognise that the models that already exist do not meet the requirements of the United Kingdom.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
Canada did not pay anything for its comprehensive free trade deal with the EU. Given that we will be the biggest export market for EU goods after we leave and are offering a very generous divorce package, contingent on a deal, does my right hon. Friend agree that we should be expecting and demanding a much better deal than Canada got?

The Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May)
I am clear, and have said several times, that the relationship we already have with the EU is such that we are in a different position from Canada. We can have a free trade agreement and economic partnership that goes well beyond that which the EU negotiated with Canada.

Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East) (Lab)
Could the Prime Minister name an international border between two countries that are not in a customs union and have different external tariffs where there are no checks on lorries carrying goods at the border?

The Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May)
There are many examples of different arrangements for customs around the rest of the world. Indeed, we are looking at those—including, for example, the border between the United States and Canada.

Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab)
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds) asked earlier where an example could be found of a border between jurisdictions. The Prime Minister gave the example of the border between Canada and the United States as being soft and frictionless. There are guns and armed customs guards on that border. Surely that is not what she has in mind? Can she perhaps find another example?

The Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May)
What I said was that we are looking at the border arrangements in a number of countries around the world. We are looking not just at the border arrangements the European Union has with a number of countries—it has a variety of customs arrangements with various countries—but more widely around the world…

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
The reality, unfortunately, is that the hard Brexit that the Prime Minister is now pursuing will lead inexorably and inevitably to a hard border in Northern Ireland. Between Canada and the United States, there are border checks of exactly the kind that she rightly says—unlike the Foreign Secretary—that she does not want in Northern Ireland. Will she confirm that she cannot name a single example anywhere in the world of an international border with no customs union and no border checks? It is a fantasy.

The Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May)
The Opposition need to stop thinking in this binary fashion—that either you are in a customs union or you cannot have suitable customs arrangements. This is exactly the problem. We have set out very clearly the options that are available. I have elaborated on another aspect of the relationship—notably, the regulatory standards. These two go together in building that trade relationship, which means no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Chaos, incompetence and downright chicanery seems to be the order of the day in the Brexit-infused politics and diplomacy of Britain.

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2 comments

  1. I hope it is just a coincidence that a few years ago, simultaneously we had a “Thatcher” on both sides of the Atlantic and now we two eejits, or at the very least delusional. It appears that they are playing a very dangerous game of brinkmanship, and we are at the brink.

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