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The Border: mundane, but that’s its power October 11, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This is good, an overview of the Border at this point. What comes across is how normal and relaxed matters currently are, and have been for, well decades. Quite a difference from crossings I recall in the 1980s when one would be held up on coaches south of Newry, or taking the train up to Belfast would have journeys interrupted (on one memorable occasion one Friday evening I remember a convoy of RUC land rovers raced along a road parallel to the train before turning and approaching the train which itself had to stop).

That’s the thing, all this is mundane, everyday, quite dull really. A world away from the fantasy castles built up around ‘sovereignty’ and ‘independence’ by some both in Britain and on this island. But that gap between the two has been massively exploited by those seeking a rupture. And there’s a literal gap as well as a conceptual one:

Colin Byrne, one of the pump attendants of the junction 20 service station, has no clue how the UK and EU would manage this Border if Britain leaves without a deal.“That’s the six million dollar question. Sure how many back roads are there across the Border. It is not doable, simply not doable,” he said.

Recently I travelled west of Derry into the Republic. I agree, I don’t know how those roads could be ‘managed’ short of closing the lot and having sanctioned official crossing points. Which again would become… well, there’s the logistical aspect before one gets to the security implications:

Johnson has ruled out customs checks at or near the Border but has not specified in his plan where “designated locations” for some required checks might be. Byrne offers a foretaste of how checks might work: “every once in a while,” he says, the Garda and customs check vehicles at the southbound exit 18 off the M1 into Dundalk. “If you saw the mayhem that that causes,” he said.

And the implications for workers?

Aodhán Michael Connolly, director of Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, says that a supermarket chicken salad sandwich can have ingredients involving six border movements (north-south and east-west, between the North and Britain), while “the humble cottage pie” can have eight, including a cheese topping produced and processed on different sides of the Border. Each movement involves tariffs so the overall costs could be huge.
“That border crossing isn’t just to move goods A to B. It is a lifeline to the supply chain and to those small and medium-sized enterprises right down to the farmers who are in our supply chain,” he said. “If there isn’t frictionless movement across that border, each of those costs will have to go down the supply chain and it is going to make things tougher for the Northern Ireland consumer.”

But not just consumers:

Ten minutes drive south of the Border, dozens of parked cars – nearly all Northern Irish-registered vehicles – line either side of the road off Junction 17 of the M1 near Dundalk in Co Louth.
They belong to Northern Irish tradesmen, mostly from across the Border in south Armagh, who park and car-pool into the Republic for work. They are mostly construction works, plumbers and electricians. “There are thousands of people going to and from work every day, crossing the Border every couple of minutes. There are thousands and thousands of guys down south working and Dublin is most of where the work is,” said Neil Byrne, a plumber from Mullaghbane near Forkhill.

And loud and clear one sentiment articulated by those interviewed… concern, anxiety, a sense that this process is ‘scary’ with the potential to see a conflict restarted.


1. An Sionnach Fionn - October 11, 2019

The speculation on the latest deal seems to be an outworking of BoJo’s pondering on British people and Irish cows in relation to the north, quoting Paisley Sr. during his heyday. A Brexit deal on a one country two systems basis for the UK and north of Ireland masking that Irish Sea border?


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