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Customs frontier August 7, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

It’s funny, when others raise concerns over the Border after Brexit Newton Emerson tends to accuse them of alarmism, when he does it. Well not so much obviously. I wouldn’t accuse him of alarmism for his latest piece but it is a bit odd. His concern is smuggling. But in all this he seems to demonstrate he’s not quite getting the hang of the problems with Brexit. For example he writes:

After a year of exploring technological border solutions, the Irish Government has suddenly lost faith in this approach. One irony of its U-turn is that the entire European Union is working towards an electronic customs frontier.

Yes. And the reason for that is that any such ‘frictionless’ customs frontier is unfeasible. Moreover there is currently no customs frontier worth its name and that status quo is what the Irish Government wants to persist. Whereas Emerson continues:

All over the globe, customs procedures are being rapidly standardised and moved online via a framework introduced a decade ago by the World Customs Organisation.

Again, no customs today. Customs tomorrow. That’s the problem.

He continues again:

The point of international standardisation is for different trading blocs and countries to start recognising each other’s AEOs. In 2014, the EU signed a reciprocal agreement with China. It is negotiating another with the United States and a spate of similar arrangements should follow. At the start of this year, the EU opened its AEO programme to 92 developing nations, allowing firms in those countries to register online.

Once more. No customs today. Customs tomorrow.

But no. He says:

Because the UK uses the EU’s accreditation system, mutual recognition should be straightforward – it is realistic to hope this could be in place for the 2019 Brexit deadline, despite London’s general disarray.

I need hardly repeat myself re customs. That Emerson doesn’t seem to want to engage with the central issue is dispiriting.

But for him all is happy enough… check out his frictionless future:

If every UK and Irish firm with a cross-border supply chain became an AEO, Brexit would still give them an administrative task and a tariff burden – potentially an enormous one, in the case of agrifood. However, the practical operation of their businesses would be unaffected, unless there was a dramatic regulatory divergence. Nothing should get stuck in warehouses or lorries on the border, awaiting an inspection or a rubber stamp.

Uh-huh? Except…

Nobody envisages this level of trust eradicating physical inspections altogether. A sample of vehicles would still need to be stopped somewhere and AERs can still expect an occasional site visit.

So there will be checks. And site visits and… indeed all the paraphernalia and activities that represent a customs frontier. Not a seamless frictionless customs frontier but a very real one.

No problem for him. Loftily he says:

But it is reasonable to aim for enough trust to address political concerns. Inspections near the Border might be reduced to the point where no nationalist could object; inspections at Northern Ireland’s ports might be restricted to vehicles coming to and from the Republic, so no unionist could fear a border down the Irish Sea.

How few checks does he think would be required so that no nationalist could object (and by the by, inspections at NI ports on vehicles going into the Republic sounds like a kind of border down the Irish Sea). Fifty an hour, a day, a month, a year?

I refer him once again to the comment made by a former PSNI senior officer to Barnier about the problems with installations of any sort along the border.

Anyway having told us that all this customs frontier is equivalent to no customs frontier for his latest trick he argues that…

The problem this brings us back to is the untrustworthy – and that goes beyond the truism of saying the rules would work perfectly if only everyone obeyed them.
The AEO framework is possible because the overriding purpose of customs facilities is now seen as the efficient collection of revenue, rather than the detection of evasion.

But all that is in a sense sophistry (and later he wanders off into stuff about the paramilitaries which frankly seems irrelevant to the central issue). He’s trying to say that a customs frontier isn’t really a customs frontier. I find that an untenable position.

What do others think?


1. An Sionnach Fionn - August 7, 2017

One suspects that semantics is going to become a big factor with this new customs border. A variation of Derry vs. Londonderry or the North of Ireland vs. Northern Ireland. It’s not a border customs inspection it’s a frontier administrative revenue examination…

Liked by 3 people

WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2017

+1 Can’t see it ending well.


Aonrud ⚘ - August 8, 2017


2. benmadigan - August 7, 2017

apart from creative ambiguity in the designation of the EU frontier across the island of ireland – here’s the DUP game-plan for post-brexit


Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2017

I’d definitely agree, the DUP has lashed itself to the Tory mast. Wonder how that’ll go…


3. gendjinn - August 7, 2017

A young Kevin Myers learns his trade.


4. GW - August 8, 2017

It definitely is a custom frontier – just look at the shape of it.

You don’t get one that wiggles around like that off the peg, and whoever designed it was clearly either half cut or a disciple of Slartibartfast.

I refuse to take Brexit seriously until after the holidays.


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