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A moderate voice? June 19, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Fascinating to see how the issue of the Border and the backstop impale the Tories and unionists. For example, take this from a supposedly ‘moderate’ unionist, and like myself a former member of the WP, one Paul Bew who in a document for Policy Exchange makes much of the idea of the backstop undermining ‘consent’ but seems oblivious to how Brexit undermined ‘consent’ in the first place. But there’s a certain sleight of hand about this – the over-attachment to all being the same in NI as with the rest of the UK when of course NI is intrinsically not the same as the rest of the UK – the GFA/BA itself makes that apparent (though there are many other aspects of law, life and so forth that differ) and to argue otherwise is untenable.

There’s a lot of handwaving about London ‘insisting’ the EU do this that and the other – ie jettison the backstop, but no clear answers as to how the issues the backstop addresses are to be solved – in other words he is one who places his trust in technology thereby demonstrating he does not actually understand the issues. And a weird lack of understanding of how the EU functions, as in the pleas to ‘reach out to directly to Dublin’. In short it’s terrible terrible stuff.

And it doesn’t stop, Bew argues in the original document:

Secondly, they must at once ensure work on alternative arrangements, including the technical solutions, is given (long overdue) priority. Such arrangements will be needed under any Brexit scenario, including ‘No Deal’ or Canada++ future relationship and a number of leading international customs and border experts insist that technology already exists that could considerably mitigate the effects of any future friction on the border. These do not necessarily “solve” the border issue entirely; but the truth is that a number of checks and differences exist already. After all, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland operate in a different monetary system, different VAT regimes, operate under different legal regimens, and there are pre-existing problems over things like smuggling and security. The scale and functioning of such checks is the real issue here.

This in a way is unbelievable. No one stops cars or trucks at the border to see they’ve the correct currency on board, nor do different legislative arrangements force vehicles to halt. They’re simply not an issue and it’s not comparing like with like.

Moreover he accepts explicitly that technology and so forth cannot ‘solve’ the issue. All it can do is make less problematic. Which in real terms means that he accepts – and in a sense embraces and welcomes – the realty of a border quite unlike the one we have today.

But it gets worse, if possible:

This false narrative – that the backstop is the only way to protect the Good Friday Agreement – must be challenged at its core. There is no mention of a frictionless border in the terms of the Good Friday Agreement; nor is the UK committed to preserving a frictionless border under its previous commitments in international law. In fact, the melting away of a hard border has been a more organic process – one enabled by the peace process but not central to its terms.When it comes to frictionless trade, the key change was the introduction of the Single Market in 1992 (which removed customs posts). After that, the success of the peace process enabled the removal of military checks but that is something different and unrelated to Brexit.

But Tony Connelly addresses this neatly on RTÉ by noting that this cuts right across the all-island economy that the GFA/BA has at its core (and it sits oddly with the supposed support for trade on his part). Indeed the GFA/BA was predicated on joint membership by the UK and the ROI of the EU. It was a given, so obvious that it hardly needed to be stated. To pretend, which is what Bew does, that one of those parties leaving the EU does not represent a seismic change is absurd. And let’s be clear, this is a unilateral change imposed by one upon the other (and this island – and we can consider how democratic legitimacy as expressed at the European elections suggests overall adherence to the backstop etc on the part of voters).

And finally we come to this:

1. Invest serious resources in customs technology to reduce any future friction on the border in the event that such checks do become necessary. But break with the unrealistic idea that there should be no effective border controls at all, including the absurd notion that “any checks” – no matter where they take place – would undermine the GFA.

It is this last which is so telling. Of course border checks do undermine the GFA. The fact that the status quo ante is disrupted, that it cuts across twenty odd years whereby the border as an entity faded into nothingness, thereby allowing not just trade north south, but localised crossings and so forth. That he does not recognise this is lamentable, though perhaps not unexpected.

And what of this?

In the event that no solution on the backstop is found, it is the UK that is likely to be forced to accept a significant part of the burden for security concerns that might emerge from the imposition of a hard border. Instead, both sides should seek to reignite the spirit of cooperation that saw the UK government give assistance to the Republic of Ireland government at the time of the financial crisis. Good trading relations, furthermore, are crucial to the Irish economy and good faith from Dublin towards London should be possible to restore.

One other observation, under Principles for negotiation and expert voices he namechecks ‘Lord Trimble’ and Ray Bassett, Graham Gudgin and so on. Earlier he mentions Dan O’Brien. Hmmm…


1. roastedsnow1 - June 19, 2019

I have the funny feeling there are many politicians with a partitionist mindset in the south who could see political benefits from a hard or defined border. Reference to the debate on the forthcoming diaspora referendum.


WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2019

I wouldn’t doubt it. The interesting thing is which politicians now at this point?


2. EWI - June 20, 2019

Good trading relations, furthermore, are crucial to the Irish economy and good faith from Dublin towards London should be possible to restore.

This threat should be taken as a measure of just how untrustworthy the unionist set (of which Bew is part) are in fact. They are not our friends, and their ‘advice’ should be seen in this light.


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