Solving the border issue is recognised as an argument against a clean break with the EU

Although it’s firmly orientated to business and high finance, the Financial Times (£) concludes in an editorial that the British-Irish relationship should  put a brake on the extreme Brexiteers who favour a clean break from the EU.

Both sides have much to lose. Without the support of its outsized neighbour, Dublin may now find itself more isolated in Brussels on EU issues such as tax harmonisation, which it opposes. Although Ireland’s economy is less dependent on the UK than it once was, it is still heavily so. Trade between the two countries is worth more than €1bn a week and is more important to the UK than business with all of Africa. Any slackening in UK growth has knock-on effects for Ireland.

Repartition risks reawakening the ghosts of Irish nationalism at a time that in Ireland, as elsewhere in Europe, the centre ground in politics is shrinking and populists are already on the march. Yet the 310-mile border will be the UK’s sole land frontier with the EU. To prevent EU nationals, and smugglers, from entering the UK through the back door, immigration and customs controls might have to be reimposed.

In this, the UK must weigh the priority of preserving the union against the prerogatives of Brexit. Ireland, meanwhile, is confronted by choices it did not want to make and outcomes over which it may have little say.

Maintaining the common travel area, which allows passport-free travel between the two countries, and ensuring the border remains as invisible as possible, will be priorities. So, too, will relations within the EU. Handled carefully these constraints could act as a brake on the ambitions of the more radical Brexiters who favour a clean departure from the EU.

The FT of course was strongly committed to Remain and  now favours  the closest possible links with the EU in the interests of the City and the rest of the financial services industry. But it is interesting to see it invoking the interests of Ireland in support of its  principal cause.

Theresa May’s government has yet to decide how clean a break to make from the EU. The impression of indecision and review ( also dramatically exposed  in the last minute postponement of the Hinkley Point deal ) arises because  the Conservatives had intended to take the two months between David Cameron’s notice to quit and  the election of a new prime minister by the Conservative rank and file in September  to work out key positions before  the successor  government took office.  But then Andrea Leadsom suddenly dropped out and Mrs May was catapulted into Downing St.

A customs union between the UK and EU would reduce the need for border controls.  But Liam Fox the new  International Trade Secretary was slapped down for suggesting that that London would probably seek to enter a free-trade agreement with the EU, rather than a closer “customs union” that could restrict its ability to negotiate lower tariffs with other trading partners.

There is no doubt that a customs union would ease the problems of the Irish border and UK-Irish trade.  But another   FT article explains why the choice is so difficult.

This week, divisions emerged between Mr Fox and Downing Street over the question of Britain remaining within the EU’s customs union. Those tensions show that fundamental issues surrounding the UK’s relationship with Europe will have to be addressed before the UK can attempt to sign deals elsewhere.

Membership of the EU’s customs union — that is, having a common external tariff applied to imports from the rest of the world — is a separate issue to membership of its single market. Norway, for example, is a member of the single market but not of the customs union, enabling it to protect some of its producers with higher tariffs than allowed in the EU. If it wants, Norway can also sign trade deals with third-country governments permitting imports at lower tariffs.

However, in order to prevent countries such as Norway becoming a backdoor into the EU market, Oslo is obliged to apply complex “rules of origin” to its exports, ensuring that they have substantially been made in Norway rather than imported from, say, China and re-exported to the EU. This, plus the need to comply with customs paperwork from which EU countries are exempt, imposes considerable costs on Norwegian companies selling goods to the bloc.

For Norway, whose exports are dominated by primary products like crude oil, this may not pose too great a hardship. For the UK, whose goods exports are generally more complex and involve the use of imported inputs, they could prove a serious handicap. On the other hand, if the UK stays inside the EU customs union and is forced to apply the same tariffs as the EU, that will in effect preclude it signing any meaningful trade deals involving goods trade with any other economy.

Small wonder  then, that Theresa May still wants to  keep an open mind.

“I think we should be developing the model that suits the United Kingdom and the European Union. Not adopting, necessarily, a model that is on the shelf already.”





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  • Skibo

    I will agree to your synopsis and note that Ireland existed as a nation for approximately 6 days. We can accept that the business transaction of Ireland gaining independence is an ongoing process and will be complete when the final part of the transaction takes place and Ireland is reunited.

  • Skibo

    The action of calling a border poll is not in my head, it is written in ink on the GFA. The SOS is the person who calls it. He MUST (shall) call it when
    “if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.”
    (Sic removed for clarity and avoid sarcasm).
    It does not prevent him calling it at any time.
    I would suggest before Brexit is enacted and give NI the chance to remain within the EU as an integral part of Ireland. I would suggest a joint authority system for an element of time to provide Unionism with comfort that their rights will not be impinged
    The close links between the two countries (Ireland and the reduced UK) should be given consideration when negotiating Brexit.

  • Skibo

    i agree to the double voting, you could have used a phone link and a computer link to vote twice. Not sure if every time they republished it did that allow the same people to vote again. It did not however stipulate where the voter came from. Problem being that only people within NI will be involved in the NI poll with people in ROI involved in the ROI poll. People outside Ireland as a whole will have no influence.
    It does however show a movement in peoples thoughts and acceptance of the project of reunification.

  • Skibo

    JR it is a bit like what does it cost for NI to reduce Corporation Tax. NI parties do not agree with the treasury as to the cost and slowly the Treasury is reducing the figure.
    Let them provide the figures and allow them to be independently checked.
    Then and only then my boy can we be sure of what it costs to run this country.
    One simple reduction is our element of the Royal Family benefits payment approximately £11.2M.
    We need to look at our element of the HS2 and Trident, the Forces, UKs element of Nato and so on and so no.
    Not just as simple as one is lead to believe.
    Michael Burke puts the extra over to be somewhere in the region of £700M bu taking what the Government pays for benefits etc to each family and the average tax take from each family. In the UK as a whole the average family pay £152 more than they recieve. The average NI family recieve £981 more than they give.
    The vast majority of this is due to higher service charges and lower wage levels.
    Perhaps if Unionism was prepared to investigate the figures more closely, they may be pleasantly surprised.

  • Skibo

    JR, I don’t believe it is possible to vote that many times unless you have 50 IP addresses. Perhaps you do but enough for your friends did not take the time to influence the poll and the BelTel cannot be described and a Nationalist paper.
    What it does show is how people are influenced by Brexit to the position that they are prepared to consider a reunification of Ireland and the setting up of a New Ireland

  • eamoncorbett

    I blame Unionism for the problems created in the first 50 years of the province and Republicans for the following 25 . I dont think Irish unity on a 50%plus 1 basis is anything like a good idea but i have believed that Stormont should be subject to the scrutiny and sovereignty of both governments in order for it to work to its full potential . As it stands one or other of the big two can get away with bringing the whole thing down without sanction , that is one of the flaws of the GFA . The FSA will endure until Article 50 Lisbon is triggered , if there is not a positive outcome from that and “hard” border controls are introduced i for one cannot see SF maintaining the powersharing agreement.

  • Kevin Breslin
  • Alan N/Ards

    According to today’s Sunday Times the official figures for Irish passports in Ni shows a rise of 10%, which is apparently is 669 extra applications.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Sorry.. that should read the official figures for Irish passports in June.

  • Hugh Davison

    No answer, as usual, to honest questions.

  • Hugh Davison

    And I seem to remember that the ‘bail-out’ was to stop RBS (Ulster Bank) and other UK interests from going to the wall, and furthermore it was a loan that is being repaid with interest. a good deal for ‘us’ as you put it.

  • Hugh Davison

    Some people in Co. Fermanagh are fond of exactitude. They carry a tape measure with them at all times to ensure they don’t inadvertently stray across the border.

  • Hugh Davison

    Excellent idea, but what would we do with those nuclear subs? And an army that doesn’t do peacekeeping?

  • Hugh Davison

    Never been to Sheffield. On my bucket list

  • Roger

    As part of the deal Central Army Command for Greater Ireland would be at the Curragh. We’d sell the subs to the highest bidder. Nukes too, subject to non proliferation rules. Or, if no buyers, we’d relocate them to Malvinas as part of a settlement with Argentina.

  • Anglo-Irish

    I have only crossed that border twice and both times on main roads but no doubt it can get confusing down the odd boreen.

    A good friend of my parents was a career soldier, Sargent Major at the Infantry school of training based at Warminster, and at one time one of the best shots in the British Army, representing it at Bisley.

    He told me of a tour of duty in NI when his patrol was merrily rolling along confident of their location when they turned the corner and drove into a village that wasn’t supposed to be there according to their map.

    An ould fella looked up at them and informed them that they were two miles inside the Republic and that if he was them he’d leave fairly quickly. They did.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Sheffield is my home town and obviously I may be biased, in truth it’s like the curates egg, ‘ good in parts ‘.

    Surrounded by some of the nicest countryside in England the city itself has differing parts as all industrial cities do.

    If you’re interested in sport Sheffield is the home of the oldest football club in the world Sheffield Club and the second oldest Hallam FC who play on the oldest football ground in the world.

    Bramall Lane is the oldest professional football ground in the world and the first sports stadium to hold a game under floodlights.

    If it’s history that you like Dore a suburb of Sheffield is the place where England first became a united country.

    If you decide to tick it off your list let me know and if I’m around I’ll buy you a pint.

    Apparently we have more breweries per capita than just about anywhere else in the country.

    Mind you, given the shocking performances of our football teams we need a drink!

  • Skibo

    Interesting how unionist bloggers refer to an equality settlement as a Nationalist settlement.
    One thing we need to realise is the GFA is not a settlement. It is merely a halfway house on the way to reunification.

  • Skibo

    The handouts have been diminishing by approximately over £1.5B over the last five years.

  • Skibo

    Know whats wrong JR, you and I probably don’t know what disposable income is as we don’t have any!

  • john millar

    Given that NI has the lowest wages in the associate high take up of benefits -why do you think NI pays its share of all taxes?

  • Hugh Davison

    Very creative solution.

  • Hugh Davison

    Thanks A-I. Would definitely be in for that if I’m ever in the area.

  • Jollyraj

    What century are you living in? For whom do you hew wood and draw water?

  • cu chulainn

    The issue is not what century I live in, but the one your colonial statement would have me live in.

  • Jollyraj

    Indeed. My telling you that I don’t indulge in gambling is a clear cut case of oppression by me on you.

    Perhaps you could organize a civil rights march about it?

  • Skibo

    Where did I say that NI pays its share of all taxes?
    What I said is NI families receive £981 per year more than they pay in taxes. This is predominately due to the lower rate wages in NI.
    Following reunification the increase in wages to parity with ROI should help balance the deficit.

  • john millar

    “the increase in wages to parity with ROI should help balance the deficit.”

    Where will the money come from to pay “the increase in wages ” .

  • john millar

    “How can we make the NHS system work for the whole island?”

    Very difficult

    1 The republic has an ” insurance” based system with top up payments by the user. The patient pays. (Insurance companies don`t work for nothing and thus introduce the profit motive to health provision)

    2 NHS is funded from general taxation- turn up and be treated –no apparent profit

    “Marriage ” of the two systems?

    Government provision funded from taxation direct to hospitals/doctors and separation of Insurance based system to wholly private system?
    Hybrid Insurance/Taxation system.?
    End or much reduced Health Insurance industry ?

  • Skibo

    May not be as difficult as you make out.
    The system is actually free if you are prepared to wait on the waiting list similar to you do in the North.
    Charges can apply to attend A&E of 100 Euro, BUT not if you attend with a referral letter from a doctor.
    There are charges for overnight stays but I would need to look into this further. There are groups of people who will be exempt of these charges.
    So, the issue of private health care is mainly about skipping the waiting lists. We already have an element of this within NI also. I know of a number of private hospitals in the North.
    Probably the bigger issue is the visits to the doctor which can be charged at between 40 and 60 Euro. Those with medical cards are exempt of these charges.

  • Skibo

    As the economy picks up, so too will the wages. We are the backwoods of the UK at the moment and will always be trailing behind everyone in the UK as regards wages.

  • MainlandUlsterman
  • Skibo

    Just one thing, the treaty was in 1922, the vote was in 1918. Hard to argue that the 1918 vote can refer to negotiations that happened 4 years later.
    Unionism rejected the all island majority for independence and instead proposed an area that would provide them with an inbuilt majority for around 100 years.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    6th December 1921, no?

    Yes, unionism did reject the all-island idea for a more accurate border. It is now almost universally accepted this border is legitimate and there because of the wishes of the people of NI, not for any other reason. Not sure why you’re trying to argue otherwise. We dealt with all this back in 98.

  • Skibo

    Unionism rejected the idea of democracy in the island of Ireland. Democracy is only is only acceptable to Unionism when it gives the result they want.
    When Belfast City Council voted democratically to only fly the Union Flag on designated days they took to the streets and threatened violence.
    I have to accept the position we find ourselves in now but I will strive to right the wrongs of partitioning Ireland.
    A most undemocratic decision for the whole people of Ireland.
    Northern Ireland was not a country pre-1921 and had to be created by Westminster. Created on a headcount, a sectarian division of a country.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    sorry, those aren’t coherent or rational ideas. It comes down to this: should the people of Northern Ireland have a right to self-determination? If not, why not? It just doesn’t make any sense to transfer a territory from one country to another against the wishes of the people living there.

    I was OK with the actual council decision over flag flying but not the way it was taken. I think the flags demonstrations reflected the considerable public unease about one community trying to decide such a question for the other, without cross-community consensus. This was all discussed here

  • Skibo

    6/12/1921 was the signing of the treaty.
    It was not ratified till 31st March1922. That is probably why it is called the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922.
    The timeline I was pointing out was that Unionists could only have been voting for union with the UK in 1918 as NI had not been set up and would not be set up till 1922.

  • Skibo

    What part of my argument is incoherent or irrational? Before NI existed they were part of Ireland as a whole. Prior to 1798 rebellion they had their own parliament in Ireland. While it may have just been a talking shop, the premises of Ireland being treated as a single voting state were a foregone conclusion.
    I accept your description of NI a as territory.
    I think we are actually starting to coincide here.
    I voted for the GFA.
    I believe that enough people can be convinced of the merits of the reunification of Ireland and the forming of a New Ireland. I do not believe that NI will simply be absorbed into ROI.
    You, I assume, believe that you can convince enough people to vote for the continuation of the Union. Can you confirm that if we can achieve our goal democratically, you will accept it and not threaten violence or propose repartition?
    Can you expand on what part of the democratic decision to reduce the flying of the Union flag you were uneasy about?
    Would you too treat the Alliance party with the disdain the Unionist block in Belfast did?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    sorry to be a pedantic (ex-) lawyer about this, but that makes the date of the Treaty 06.12.21. The signatories were plenipotentiaries, empowered to sign on behalf of SF. When the treaty is signed, it is a deal.

    Ratification happens in national parliaments and is where a treaty is put into domestic legislation. Some treaties never get ratified but governments, if they sign a treaty with another government, are still bound by the treaty. Non-ratification just creates a bit of an internal mess for that signatory, but it’s not fatal to the treaty. The other party is still entitled to ask for treaty obligations to be fulfilled.

    Not sure what your point is about 1918 …?

  • Skibo

    “Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the Schedule to this Act shall have the force of law from the date of the passing of this Act” sorry to be pedantic but the signing of the treaty is not important.

    The only vote prior to the Treaty was the election in 1918. In that vote Sinn Fein achieved 75% of the representation for the whole of Ireland. They stood for independence of the whole of Ireland.