jump to navigation

Brexit fan May 17, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Ray Bassett is a most curious character. In his most recent SBP column he admitted that technological fixes for the Border post-Brexit do not exist. And yet, he puts his name to a report with Graham Gudgin (former advisor to David Trimble), from the pro-hard Brexit Policy Exchange (complete with a snappy forward by, yes, Trimble) which argues precisely that a ‘smart’ border is feasible [you can download the PDF from this link].

Furthermore, and this I find genuinely curious for a man who was an Irish ambassador and diplomat, involved in negotiating the GFA/BA he accepts in the Executive Summary the following language:

This report, based on a series of Policy Exchange articles, outlines how the UK got itself into this difficult position, including the wording of last December’s Joint Progress Report when the UK conceded too much on the Northern Ireland Issue in its anxiety to move onto trade talks. The lesson of that mistake is that hurried concessions will most likely be punished at a later date, as UK flexibility comes up against a hard-line EU negotiating position.

Or from the main text:

It was hardly an exaggeration when sections of the British media described [The EU’s draft Withdrawal Agreement ] as an EU proposal to annex Northern Ireland. It was certainly an attempt to ease Northern Ireland into a semi-detached status within the UK. Of course, all of this was anathema to the UK government and its DUP allies, leading to its swift rejection This raises the question of why a Withdrawal Agreement should have Getting Over the Line – 19 been published by the EU when it must have known that this be precisely the UK reaction. These proposals were what US Forces term DOA, or dead on arrival, but the EU and the Irish government continue to insist that they were only a legally clear interpretation of what had been agreed in December’s Progress report.

Then there’s this from the Executive Summary:

The main argument of the report is that an Irish border without physical infrastructure is fully attainable, and therefore that the overly complex proposals for a Customs Partnership are unnecessary. Arrangements based on the UK’s proposals for an expanded trusted trader scheme and exemptions for small traders will suffice to operate a border without infrastructure. The additional idea of a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around the whole island for animal health may have additional merit as long as it carries no constitutional implications that unionists would reject. All of this would be greatly facilitated by the Free Trade Agreement that the UK wishes to negotiate and which the EU is delaying and frustrating.


Modern technology means that physical customs posts, or even cameras, are no longer essential at borders. This has been pointed out by Lars Karlsson, a customs expert commissioned by the EU to look into this subject, who envisages the use of mobile phone and GPS technology to track HGVs, together with the computer-based customs clearing (the norm across much of the world). Computerised customs clearing consists of declarations of tariff duties payable, including on import content, and also the necessary certification of regulatory approval. Inspection of animal health and food standards can occur at producers’ premises, is common in current practice. Customs clearance occurs at the exporter’s premises and the sealed consignments can then cross the Irish border while being tracked electronically by customs authorities. Few additional incentives for smuggling will be in place if there is an FTA, but smuggling can be further deterred if legislation mandates that all HGVs operating in Ireland carry tracking technology.

Supporters of UK membership of the EU Customs Union assert that no border exists anywhere in the world without some physical infrastructure. This is true in principle but not relevant to the case in hand. Mr Karlsson says that arrangements without physical infrastructure have been successfully trialled on the Norway-Sweden border. The only reason that they have not been adopted for general use on this border is that the existing border arrangements are satisfactory and hence the cost of new electronic systems is not justified.

There’s a problem though with Karlsson’s testimony. As noted by Richard North here…

 Dr Karlsson had been attentively received by the Commons Brexit committee, to lay out his plan for a “smart border” between the two parts of Ireland, which could resolve the impasse that for months has threatened to derail Brexit talks. 

The only snag, he tells his readers, was that, as a customs man, Dr Karlsson focused entirely on “customs controls”, completely failing to address those other “border controls” which are by far the more serious part of the problem. 

Nothing he said would do anything to avoid the need for Border Inspection Posts, where, under EU rules, all live animals and “products of animal origin”, from milk to fish, will require inspections by officials wholly unconnected with customs. 

The same applies to the Designated Points of Entry required to inspect all plant and vegetable products (right down to the wooden pallets used in transporting them). 

And even more crucially:

The terrifying thing, though, was that not a single MP seemed to realise that what Dr Karlsson was offering would solve nothing at all; any more than they grasped that the reason why goods can flow so freely between Norway and Sweden is that they are both in the European Economic Area, which Theresa May is determined we shall leave. 

Bassett likes to present himself as a figure who through his experience is offering a dissident analysis which skirts around the fringe of being pro-Brexit without quite arriving there, or being pro-Irexit but not quite, but here it seems to me he has moved into a pro-Brexit camp, and very specifically so. But worse, much worse, is the way in which all this is so poorly analysed that it takes literally no time to recall the limitations of Karlsson’s arguments from reading North and others in the past and simply recognising the name to recognise that a central plank of what Bassett et all propose is simply and egregiously incorrect.

There’s a further point. Bassett and Gudgin offer ‘key recommendations’ first of which is:

1) The negotiations should aim to achieve three things – all of which can be delivered: a. Respect the UK’s referendum result, including its departure from the Single Market and Customs Union b. Preserve a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic c. Maintain the free flow of trade between the UK, EU, including Northern Ireland and the Republic

But (a) is wrong. The referendum result did not deliver departure from the SM or CU, since that was not the question raised then. It merely and explicitly talked about departure from the EU, which can be achieved while a member of either SM or CU or both.

Again, there’s no point in offering the illusion of being honest brokers when allied to such a determinedly political approach.

Because I’ve not the time or inclination to parse every aspect of the document here, consider the key recommendations:

3) These solutions are being shunned by Brussels and Dublin for political reasons. The UK should persist in advancing the sensible ‘max-fac’ solution.

4) The UK Government should now return to its earlier position of insisting that full settlement of the Irish border issue should await the wider agreement on trade arrangements.

5) Ultimately, the Republic of Ireland stands to lose most from a failure to reach an agreement, followed by the EU. The Irish Government should co-operate with the UK in devising a border without physical infrastructure.

It ill behoves those who complain about the EU delaying and frustrating or talk glibly about ‘punishment’, all of which are terms in this application which many in both Ireland the UK would question are appropriate (check out the Guardian Brexit podcast for example, consider the talk from the UK Green Party or the British Labour Party, or just listen to Jeremy Corbyn and what he has to say), to write the above. A threat? No, but something that is so cloth-eared in the context of the relationships on this island that it is quite literally incredible that a former Irish diplomat could be involved in drafting them.

Finally we have this:

6) Peace in Northern Ireland, including the Good Friday Agreement, is more secure now than it was 30 years ago when the treaty was published. Those seeking to undermine Britain’s withdrawal from the EU by scaremongering over the future of the GFA are wrong and should desist.

And again, for the second time in a week, those ‘scaremongering’ include former RUC/PSNI high ranking officers.


1. makedoanmend - May 17, 2018

David Harvey tells the story of when he became a consultant for various projects that the first lesson of consultation is to find out what the customer wants in a series of meetings and then go write a report to confirm what the customer wants is the best option.

The customer is happy and the customer thinks the consultant is some sort of savant.

When events become too complex for ordinary punter like MPs, “consultants” pop up to clear their confusion. They do, however, make sure they are paid before the actual projects are implemented.


2. GW - May 17, 2018

I think the strategy of the hard [Br/L]exiteers WRT to the RoI is clear enough:

1) First ensure a crash-out Brexit with no agreement on the Irish border. Blame the intransigent EU and Irish.

2) Then fail to police the border through the Island of Ireland, forcing the RoI to do so. The resulting expense and chaos contributes to:

3) Lever RoI out of the EU and into the sphere of influence of the imagined buccaneering British Empire 2.0

There are a number of possibilities through which this cunning scheme can be thrwarted 🙂


3. CL - May 17, 2018

Something has to be done about Fine Gael irredentism; as Dr. Gudgin has consistently pointed out Varadkar and Coveney are using Brexit to appeal to their republican base in an attempt to annex the six counties.
‘What is most interesting about this piece by Dr Graham Gudgin on @BrexitCentral is how virtually identical it is to every other pro-Brexit piece on the Irish border’


4. benmadigan - May 17, 2018

“It was certainly an attempt to ease Northern Ireland into a semi-detached status within the UK”.

NI is already in a semi-detached condition within the UK. Any more “easing” and it will become a detached property!

No other UK region has a birth- right to the passport of another country;
no other region has the assurance that a border poll will happen , someday, if the SOS wakes up some morninjg thinking “nothing to do today, let’s organise a border poll”.
Like Scotland almost 50% of the NI population wants out of the UK
Unlike Scotland, they declare their allegiance to a “foreign” country.


WorldbyStorm - May 17, 2018

+1 re it semi detached already.


5. Jim Monaghan - May 18, 2018

A critique of Tony Coughlan. Couglan said this “Germany too might be willing to facilitate Ireland leaving the Eurozone, recognising that it is within Britain’s historic sphere of influence.”.
More here https://brianmlucey.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/a-fisking-we-shall-go-anthony-coughlan-in-village-magazine/ Oh it is an enjoyable polemic.


6. Jim Monaghan - May 18, 2018

“Finally, no mention is made about the intractable problem of the Irish border. The end of the thirty-year conflict in Northern Ireland saw the militarized border between the North and the Republic become all but invisible. It is unthinkable to those who remember this period that a physical border should reappear. But since the Republic will remain within the EU, this is a necessary condition of UK — and therefore Northern Ireland — withdrawal from the customs union. Talk of a technological solution is fantasy. The alternative is a “special arrangement” for Northern Ireland whereby the new European border lies in the Irish Sea, with customs checks at ports and airports — but this proposal is unacceptable to Unionists. The UK government’s current position of aiming to leave the customs union without a creating a hard border in Ireland is akin to a Venn diagram in which there is no intersection between the circles. For this reason, Theresa May is currently proposing two incompatible approaches, both of which are unacceptable to the EU.

It is naive to assume these that these issues will simply disappear if Labour instead of the right wing of the Conservatives were to oversee a hard Brexit.” from https://jacobinmag.com/2018/05/brexit-lexit-remain-eurozone-membership-labour/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: