Facing the inevitable consequences of its inability – or unwillingness – to negotiate a fair Brexit deal with Brussels and Dublin, it seems that London is readying detailed plans for a future “hard border” in Ireland. According to Irish and British media reports, officials in the United Kingdom are studying a range of controversial measures which will lead to the establishment of a formal customs frontier around the UK legacy colony in the north-east of the island. A frontier which will almost certainly become a militarised one in the years ahead, given the determination of many local Irish communities to resist a return to the oppressive era of cross-border checkpoints and approved road routes under the control of the British authorities.
From the Independent newspaper in Britain:
People crossing the Irish border would have to register in advance to avoid checks and delays after Brexit under a hugely controversial plan being considered by No 10.
Anyone without “fast-track movement” clearance would have to use approved crossing points or would be “considered to have entered the state irregularly”, the study suggests.
Despite Theresa May’s insistence that the border will continue to have no “physical infrastructure”, both CCTV and cameras to track vehicle number plates would be needed at some crossing points, according to the blueprint.
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister has told MPs she has “asked officials to look at it very carefully”, adding: “I believe it gives some very good proposals for solutions.”
The decision to consider the plan, put forward in Brussels, was strongly criticised by the Irish government, which told The Independent the proposals would break Ms May’s pledge of no “physical infrastructure and associated checks” after Brexit.
Peter Hain, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, went further, warning the proposal to pre-register travellers “would be risking immediate civil unrest”.
Unsurprisingly, the Democratic Unionist Party, the parliamentary allies of the minority Conservative Party government in the United Kingdom, has welcomed the shock proposals, hailing them as “…an excellent foundation to build on”. The ethno-separatist DUP has been pursuing its own covert agenda in relation to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union since the country’s membership referendum in 2016, hoping that the international divisions stirred up by the move will lead to a deepening of British-imposed partition in Ireland. Thus reinforcing, in their minds, Britain’s rule over the Six Counties for another generation or two (even if that outcome leads to a renewal of violent conflict in the disputed region, albeit at a lower intensity than witnessed during the thirty years of the so-called Troubles).
With the government and party of prime minister Theresa May split between competing factions, including hard-right populists, nationalists and xenophobes, and her tenure in office reliant on the parliamentary votes of the reactionary and hibernophobic Democratic Unionists, any hope of a compromise agreement emerging from London on the issue of Brexit seems to be fading.
But wasn’t there a customs border for nearly 50 years from the founding of the Free State up until the outbreak of violence at the end of the ’60s? If it was feasible then with limited technology why not now with all the super-duper electronic jee-wizardry they have now?
There’s also the salient point that if the UK did nothing the EU would surely insist that Ireland impose a border to safeguard the integrity of the Customs Union??
Would repartition leading to a smaller rump NI be a solution? Pen up all the DUP nut jobs in their own little ghetto?
That’s true, there was a customs border, but… that’s kind of precisely the problem – even before the conflict of the 70s-90s that border was hugely problematic. It underscored the isolation of nationalists and republicans, cut through what should be the natural hinterlands of towns either side of the border etc. It got worse once conflict broke out. Any of us who remember travelling by car or bus towards Newry from the south or the other way will remember the BA installations there.
The genius of the GFA, for all other flawed aspects, was to effectively wash the border away – allowing a sort of organic reknitting of some of the bonds and contacts and communications that had been severed by partition and easing others. Of course it is still a border but psychologically it can be a border without being a border and that means a lot. And that’s before we get to the economic. Boris Johnson muttered stuff about 5% of crossings being inspected which suggests he knows nothing at all about either the intricate web of connections across it or the geography or indeed just how disruptive even 5% checks would be.
Moving from a situation where there was an invisible border to a manifest one is a huge step backwards. And the problem with tech solutions is that they don’t actually exist (and in any event would still require some interventions physically to back them up).
Back in the day, with the ‘old border’, there was no EU and Ireland was very much an isolated backward backwater in Britain’s back yard, despite her nominal independence. But if the border were now to be reinstated, the boot would be very much on the other foot (and kicking!) Now Ireland is well integrated into Europe, a modern progressive nation, given full and equal respect abroad, whereas it’s Britain (or England to be more exact) which will be the poor relative, shunned, isolated and living in the past.
Hard border = hard Brexit. I find it difficult to believe that even the tories are that suicidal, but maybe they are. Hard Brexit means ruinous losses to the UK economy. In which case, Scottish Independence is only a vote away.It’s an ill wind . . .
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here’s my view on the matter. I doubt if the UK will go for a hard brexit, given what will happen when the EU door closes with no withdrawal agreement https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2018/03/11/ireland-first/
Thanks for the link, Ben.