After Brexit… Partition on steroids
IF BRITAIN crashes out of the EU, the Irish Government will be reluctantly forced to erect border checks to remain a member of the European Single Market and EU Customs Union.
If Britain agrees on a free trade agreement with the EU, border checks will still be required as the UK is refusing to sign up to full regulatory alignment with the EU.
Either which way the prospects are bleak for a no land border check scenario on the island of Ireland.
Despite strong support by the member states towards Ireland’s terrible predicament arising from Brexit, the current or future Irish Government will face a choice between a no hard border scenario or maintaining full membership of the EU with all its associated rules and advantages.
An alternative to a hard border will only happen in one of two ways. In the North, the DUP would have to blink first and concede that Northern Ireland should have special EU protected status. In that instance, Northern Ireland would remain an EU member when the rest of the UK would not. The alternative is that UK will remain in the EU but it is hard to imagine either scenario being realised.
Best case scenario: we are just 15 months away from when the UK fully exits the European Union. Worse case: this will happen in March 2019.
Where did it all go wrong? The original plan was that negotiators would be about to conclude the second phase of the exit talks around now in time for October’s summit of EU leaders.
On March 1st, the UK would enter a new transition period with the clock ticking towards December 2020, the end of the transition agreement.
Sadly, the current mess means that the first phase remains unresolved – the British government has backslided from the ‘backstop’ – the promise that there would be no hard border whether not there was a Brexit agreement.
And the second phase is in tatters. The so-called ‘Chequers proposal’ agreed in May by the UK cabinet was the UK contribution to the second round; the round that would set out the parameters for a EU-UK trade agreement in advance of the technical detail being worked out. EU negotiators rightly highlight that there can be no cherry picking.
There are suggestions now of a CETA-like deal – Canadian Europe Trade Agreement.
More will be known at a crucial informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Salzberg next month. Whether it will be a free trade deal, a regulation and trade deal or no deal, all roads lead to border checks. The question is what type?
The best we can hope for is that it will be a low friction border.
The Swedish-Norwegian border is considered to be the most advanced in the world.
Despite extensive use of technology, a common legal framework for border operations, plus an economic area agreement which sees Norway mirror EU regulatory standards for goods, both countries require a pre-arrival declaration at least one hour prior to arrival at one of the 14 border posts between the two countries.
Some products can cross unmanned border crossing but they too are subject to pre-arrival declarations and additional special conditions.
This is the product of six decades of customs cooperation between both countries.