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I don’t often agree with him… February 17, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

But Bertie Ahern in the Observer at the weekend made a reasonable point about Brexit and Theresa May.

“[May] seems to be switching her language,” he said. “She’s saying not that there’ll be no border, but that the border won’t be as difficult as to create problems. I worry far more about what’s going to happen with that. It will take away the calming effects [of an open border]. Any attempt to try to start putting down border posts, or to man [it] in a physical sense as used to be the case, would be very hard to maintain, and would create a lot of bad feeling.”

As has been long noted here, so much of what she says is aspirational, and undetailed aspiration at that. That should be of major concern. And Ahern is correct in relation to the following too:

Ahern said he, too, was unconvinced that the current technology could do the job. There are 200 crossing points on the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, with 177,000 crossings by lorries a month, 208,000 by vans and 1.85m by cars.

“I haven’t found anyone who can tell me what technology can actually manage this,” Ahern said, adding that he feared the furious reaction of the unionist communities in the mid-1980s when the Republic was given an advisory role in the government of Northern Ireland could be repeated on the nationalist side if controls were reinstated. “Any kind of physical border, in any shape, is bad for the peace process,” he said.

Meanwhile the Observer casts yet further doubt on bilateral arrangements between the ROI and the UK – and this in the context of the GFA/BA.

The British prime minister has repeatedly suggested that the 1923 Common Travel Area deal can be the basis for the future, although it was signed before either state joined the EU.

However, a memo from the European parliament’s legal affairs committee, which is helping shape the negotiating position of the European commission and the red lines of the European parliament, rebuffs that suggestion: “The [Good Friday] agreement makes it abundantly clear that the fact that both parts of Ireland and the UK are within the EU is a basis for the agreement. Moreover, the fact that Brexit could result in the reintroduction of border controls and controls on the free movement of persons between Ireland and Northern Ireland means this is a question for the EU, and not only Ireland the UK.”

This last has been downplayed, not least in the British Supreme Court, but the EU is specifically mentioned in the text of the GFA/BA and I’ve wondered how it could not be involved. How to square that circle is near enough impossible to figure out. But one thing is for certain, this Tory government show no appetite to actually engage with it.


1. GW - February 17, 2017

“I haven’t found anyone who can tell me what technology can actually manage this,”

Well, it depends on what you want to do – surveillance or interdiction.

Probably a fairly full surveillance of the border could be achieved by the use of drones and fixed surveillance on roads, and could track those who turn off their mobiles phones. (Remember GCHQ has all of your location data, probably, through mobile phone tracking). Any number of sabotage and counter-measure possibilities come to mind against such technology for those determined and inventive enough.

Interdiction is harder, and will mean physical borders or at least a thickly patrolled border on the British side again. I’m sure this is something British securocrats and the firms who profit from this sort of thing, are champing at the bit to implement. May’s previous record as Home Secretary suggests that price or civil liberties would not be a determining factor for the Tory government.

Liked by 1 person

2. FergusD - February 17, 2017

But isn’t the issue the checking of goods that cross a border in and out of the EU? Even if there is no customs import tariff there will be “paperwork”, albeit probably digital. That requires are very substantial investment in infrastructure. See this from the HMRC about imports to the UK from outside the EU, something similar would apply folowing Brexit surely?



GW - February 17, 2017

You forget the anti-immigrant aspects of Brexit, wot won it for Farage.

Goods are OK – people are not.


FergusD - February 17, 2017

What I meant was, no matter what the UK or RoI govts want, once the UK leaves the EU some sort of border, with control over the movement of goods, AT LEAST, will have to be in place beween NI and RoI, even if they could sort out the movement of people (which I doubt they can).


3. bjg - February 17, 2017

My sense of it is that HMG might actually be happy with some sort of fudge, simply because Ireland isn’t terribly important to them and because the UK won’t be bothered about maintaining the inviolability of the EU’s borders. But, although the UK caused the problem, it can’t solve it: any border arrangement has to satisfy the EU. Kevin O’Rourke had a very good piece on irisheconomy.ie yesterday http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2017/02/16/brexit-customs-unions-and-borders/ with an interesting extract from a EuroIntelligence article.

In a sense, you have a collision of different problems: folk in Ireland worried in one way or another about Northern Ireland and relations therein and therewith, folk in Brussels worried about maintaining the customs union and folk in Britain worried about something else [the identification of which is left as an exercise for the student], but not very interested in the issues concerning either Ireland or the EU.



GW - February 17, 2017

Well put. One apex of the triangular relationship is largely obsessed only with what happens to it.

I’ve done my homework above.


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