Evasions on the Irish border

Submitted by martin on 10 January, 2019 - 11:45 Author: Martin Thomas
Border communities against Brexit

What do the DUP say in reply to the objection that a ″no deal″ Brexit - or, indeed, anything less than the ″backstop″ they object to - would bring a new ″hard border″ in Ireland?

They say that will never happen, because the Irish and British governments will find ways to avoid it, come what may.

That is nonsense. With ″no deal″, there will be tariffs on a huge range of items crossing the border.

It is also true, by the way, that the Labour front bench′s scheme of the UK remaining in the EU Customs Union would not stop a hard border. Unless the UK also stays in the Single Market, a hard border will be needed to check everything that crosses against Single Market regulations.

It′s true, and odd, that the Irish government′s contingency plan for ″no deal″ (bit.ly/ir-ndb) says nothing about the elephant in that room, the border, while it is full of detail about smaller issues, the cats and mice in the room.

As far as can be judged from informed press comment, the Irish government′s plan is to turn a deliberate blind eye to the border in the case of ″no deal″, in the expectation that a ″no deal″ period will be short.

Apart from maybe some Lexiters, no-one in the Brexit camp actually wants a ″siege economy″. They are not opposed to trade deals. In 2016 they claimed that Brexit would allow the UK to get better trade deals with the rest of the world, as well as having a fairly good deal with the EU. Even the Lexiters rely on a neoliberal trade-deal framework, the WTO, as their fallback.

So the Irish government may be right: if Britain does stumble into ″no deal″, it will probably be only for a brief period of chaos until some sort of scrappy trade deal with the EU is patched together and rushed through Parliament as the ″least bad″ exit from that chaos.

The Irish government reckons it can afford to turn a blind eye to uncollected tariffs in the meantime, and anyway has little choice since it cannot in a couple of months establish the means to collect those tariffs effectively.

That doesn′t mean that ″no deal″ would avoid a hard border. At most it means that ″no deal″ is code for ″panic poor deal″. And that panic poor deal would almost surely mean a hard border a little way down the road.

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