Thursday 30 November 2017

UK's deaf ears to the Irish Border problem

As a former teacher I'm quite accustomed to people not listening.  That's why I always regarded the golden rule of successful teaching to be:

  • tell them what you're going to tell them;
  •  tell them
  •  tell them what you've told them.
Of course, this approach wouldn't wash with OFSTED and its aims "tailored for every individual child"  but I found it pretty effective with my students..

Unfortunately it doesn't seem to work with British politicians, or the British media.

From the beginning the European Commission has been perfectly and repeatedly clear that progress on trade deals etc could not proceed until satisfactory arrangement had been made on the three basics of the UK's "divorce" settlement, the status of EU nationals already in the UK, and the Irish border.

It has always been obvious that the divorce settlement would be easiest to settle because it is the easiest to fudge.  Now that fudge has been reached.  Boris Johnson's lofty assertion that [the EU] could "whistle for their money" was clearly directed at his potential supporters -  "Boris will tell 'em!" - rather than a serious contribution.  An initial offer of around £20bn was  hinted at and the EU was said to be thinking of anything up to €100bn.

Now the compromise of around £/€50bn appears to be on the table but, since no specific final amount is mentioned, and the payment could be in instalments over several years, or even decades, after the initial indignation the whole thing will be pushed into the long grass as we obsess on other things (possibly more royal babies.)

A civilised reciprocal arrangement for EU citizens already in the UK and UK citizens remaining in the EU should not be beyond the will of skilful diplomats.  "All the rights you already have," announced on the day after the referendum, would and should have been a healthy start. If our government were capable of shame they would experience it in the cruel folly of making people's lives a bargaining chip

But there really is no credible solution to the problem of the Irish border.  The Brexiteers fantasise about some technology so modern that it does not yet exist  which will allow free passage of goods and services from Northern Ireland, in the UK and outside the EU, to the Republic of Ireland, in the EU and outside the UK, without the UK's being in the Customs Union or even the Single Market

This obviously can't be done.  the Irish Government and the EU's negotiators,have said so from the beginning.  The Brexiteers, and their supine media supporters, have simply not listened, and now cry "foul" as the December deadline for the next stage of the talks approaches.

This earlier post illustrates how tragic it will be if this wilful blindness upsets the fragile peace based on the Good Friday Agreement and results in a resumption of the "Troubles" which have caused so much misery for  ordinary people for the past century and more.


  1. This obviously can't be done. the Irish Government and the EU's negotiators,have said so from the beginning

    It's quite simple. We declare that we are happy for any good which are in the Republic of Ireland to cross the border into the UK. Abracadabra, no border.

    Of course the EU might not be so blasé about goods going the other way, and insist that the Republic puts up border checkpoints on their side. But that, really, is a matter for negotiation between the Republic and the EU, and nothing to do with us.

    (The cynical might suggest that the real objection the Irish have is that a lot of their livestock exports go to the UK thanks to the Common External Tariff, and that once we leave the protectionist Customs Union and said tariff, we will be free to buy yummy, cheap beef from Argentina and the USA rather than their stuff. But that couldn't be it — could it?)

    1. Will that apply to people too?

    2. Whyever would it not?

    3. Well, presumably all those continental EU citizens the Leavers are trying to keep our could fly or sail to Ireland and then walk into the UK "without let or hindrance."

    4. They could, but they wouldn't be able to live or work in the UK, so they'd have to walk right out again once they'd done their sightseeing. And it's pretty certain there's going to be reciprocal visa-free travel between EU countries and the UK anyway, so they'd be able to do exactly the same thing on the Eurostar.

      So where's the problem?

    5. I wonder if that's how most Leave voters understand it. It doesn't sound much like "taking control of our borders" to me.

    6. I think we've established that you have no idea what Leave voters were or are thinking.

    7. Surely "taking control of our borders" was a major theme of the Leave campaign. Are you saying that Leave voters disregarded it and voted for something else?

    8. They voted for taking control. Control meaning, inter alia, that decisions about who is allowed to come to live and work in the UK are taken in Westminster and not over-rulable by any other body, such as the ECJ.

      None of that is in any way incompatible with allowing visa-free travel for temporary visitors like tourists or people attending business meetings.

    9. That's certainly one way of interpreting it. We'll see how the negotiations develop, and what the Brexiteers' reaction is to what, if anything, is achieved.

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