Brexit, the Common Travel Area and the Border June 28, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
What effects will Brexit have on the CTA between Ireland and the UK? Short answer? Like the GFA no one seems to know. The debate yesterday didn’t clarify matters any either. A lot of aspirations expressed from the government side – a lot of unfounded stuff from others too. But in truth what can they do?
The Irish government said it would also “do its utmost” to maintain the common travel area between the UK and Ireland, which allows passport-free travel between the two islands.
Further is the issue of the border, and the nature of that border. The assurances of Leave representatives including the NI Secretary of State appear hollow given the uncertainty expressed in Dublin (and from some in London). Interestingly there’s another voice that seems concerned:
Brendan Boyle, a Pennsylvania congressman, said the US would “strongly oppose” the return of a hard border between the republic and NI. “Our policy must be to fight against any backsliding into the bad old days of border checkpoints.”
And the Telegraph piece on the GFA notes:
In theory, Brexit will entail the imposition of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The nature and impact of a hard border are hotly debated and it would have repercussions for trade, tourism, cross-border workers and impact on mind-sets.
That ‘in theory’ is key. The logic of Brexit is that the EU becomes terra incognito, in a sense – that it becomes other. Bilateral agreements established pre-EU don’t necessarily survive into this period of Brexit – even if they were successfully folded into the UK/ROI relationship while both were full members of the EU (indeed Schengen, perhaps ironically, was quite positive given that the two states remained outside it).
But let’s keep in mind customs checks were in existence within the EU and between North and South until 1993 – and were abolished due to the EC. So the idea that they are unlikely to be reintroduced in the context of Brexit seems overly optimistic.
That would depend on the outcome of the negotiations that would follow a British ‘Out’ vote.
A Brexit could open the possibility of restrictions on people moving between Britain and Ireland for work. And given that the EU’s only land frontier with the UK would be in Ireland, it could also mean the reintroduction of passport controls at the border.
At best that would be inconvenient. At worst it would deal a hammer-blow to the border region and severely stymie North-South cooperation, which has developed in many areas since the Belfast Agreement.
Some believe this sounds far-fetched and that a bilateral deal would be struck to maintain the Common Travel Area – the travel zone that comprises Ireland, the UK, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.
But the point isn’t whether that happy compromise is achieved, it is the simple fact that Brexit in and of itself calls into question everything that has come before and that any hard and fast conclusions as regards none of the above being likely are consequently incorrect.
Matt Cooper at the weekend in the SBP was oddly even more pessimistic:
Just because we’ve had a CTA between Ireland and Britain for nearly a century does not mean it will continue automatically. We share a 500km land border. We can travel to and from Britain and ireladn without passports, because obit of us were the only EU members to opt out of the Schengen agreement. If we go to anywhere else in the EU, we need our passport, and if people from the continent come into Ireland they must present theirs.
And he continues:
We automatically enter Schengen if Britain leaves the EU, as our opt out expires. That means no EU national would have to show a passport on entering Ireland (and vice versa in relation to EU states). But then Britain would need passport controls on the border with the North to stop any EU immigrants entering Britain there.
And he notes that:
…other EU countries with land borders with non-EU countries don’t get special deals that are unavailable to other EU members.
As well as adding this isn’t just about travel north and south, but those communities and workers along the border who cross it many times each day.
There’s a broader political point. The nature of the incoming Tory administration in the UK, one which is likely to have even less interest than its predecessor in matters Irish (not least because it will likely be dealing with the prospect of a full-fledged push to depart the Union by Scotland), doesn’t give cause for confidence. Not when as the IT notes:
A UK detachment could isolate nationalist communities in the North, they suggest. “A lot of the cross-border co-operation that currently takes place on the island of Ireland, but also between Ireland and Scotland, takes place currently through EU funding,” says Anthony Soares, deputy director of the Centre for Cross-Border Studies.
“If the UK were to leave the EU and no longer have access to that type of funding… that would really leave at risk the cross-border cooperation that takes place at the moment.”
And that lack of interest was evident, but to a vastly greater degree, in the Leave/Exit camps. For them it was Brexit, not UKexit. It troubled their thoughts, seemingly not in the slightest what the collateral damage or unintended consequence was in relation to the broader UK.
The Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers is insisting that the border will remain open, in spite of the UK’s departure from the EU.
There are concerns that border checks may be re-imposed once the UK officially leaves the European Union.
But Theresa Villiers claims that will not happen: “I believe we can retain a border which is as open and free flowing as it is today.
“Obviously nothing changes today, but I am convinced that we will be able to find a way to ensure that we keep that border as open as it is today.
“It is very important that we do so.”
Yeah. It’s very important but something a bit more solid than her expressing the idea she’s convinced she can ‘find a way’ is necessary.
So, as with the GFA, the dice has been thrown, it’s in the air. Anyone who tells us that everything is going to be grand is, at best, incorrect. None of us have lived through a moment like this. But as noted before, it isn’t just a moment. This is going to run and run.
There’s more too. The Irish Times noted the following;
The energy networks themselves are also closely linked: there is a single all-Ireland electricity market, which functions via a North-South electricity interconnection, and the Irish electricity and gas grids are bound to the British grids through separate interconnectors. These links improve security of supply but also reduce energy prices in Ireland because British wholesale electricity prices are lower than here.
And let’s not even get into some of the economic projections.