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Those ‘alternative arrangements’… September 16, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Katy Hayward, reader in sociology in QUB and senior fellow of UK in a Changing Europe and a member of the Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group has produced this, a 16 page overview of alternative arrangements. The idea is that this provides a ‘framework for analysis’ but reading it one may well feel that many, many problems are raised just in detailing the supposed alternatives…
To take but one example:

First, a general exemption from customs procedures and reporting for small/micro enterprises trading below the VAT threshold has been proposed


It is worth noting key problems that need to be addressed were this to be offered as a potential alternative arrangement to the backstop:
5.5.1. The assumption behind this proposal is that there is a ‘low risk’ arising from small cross-border transactions. The question immediately arises, however: what is the risk? Is it fiscal, regulatory, health, phytosanitary, economic, illegal immigration, security? Any such risk would be dealt with differently and should be viewed on different scales. And, secondly, how is it assessed to be ‘low’ and against what measures?
5.5.2. Secondly, the assumption that low risk is associated with small cross-border transactions is belied by the scale of the exemption. If it relates to 94% of all those businesses from NI trading, and to 47% of the value of all exports from NI to ROI [Republic of Ireland], then it cannot be considered to be of low risk from a wide number of perspectives, as noted above.
5.5.3. Thirdly, such an approach would incentivise non-compliance, not just in VAT and customs areas, but across all tax heads and other regulatory requirements.

There’s more in that specific instance, and more broadly in the other areas addressed. So, technological fixes?

6.4. It needs to be acknowledged that any alternative arrangements relying primarily on advance cargo information will require a level of data sharing and analysis that is currently not known anywhere in the world when it comes to crossing a land border. This is because at other land borders, the default position can be to deny entry; in the case of the post-Brexit Irish border, entry will be (be by? default) unopposed. The question then arises: why would a business submit the necessary detailed information? Incentive to comply needs to be paramount if any alternative arrangements system based on addressing this particular cornerstone of border management is to work.

But wait – there are so many elements to such fixes, that each requires outlining in detail – technologies that ‘can be used to confirm when a vehicle (or potentially a container or item on that vehicle) crosses a particular point at a particular time’ or that ‘can be used to verify information submitted’ or for ‘facial recognition’ and so on. But Hayward outlines the problems with each of these.

In total it makes the quest for ‘alternative arrangements’ look misguided at best.


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