Post Brexit, there may be many technological fixes to prevent serious rifts in border life…

There is a lot fanciful nonsense being talked about what will happen to the Irish border post Brexit. Newton Emerson leads with one of the more fanciful ideas in the deployment of drones (which in terms of security are already here) to regulate customs.

But he uses that to make a critically important point about how technology is already making the sort of grand projets that have marked the recent history of the EU unnecessary, if not redundant…

Over the next decade, the EU needs to relieve pressures on the single currency and the Schengen common travel area. Internal electronic borders are a likely solution.

There could be a northern and southern euro, but with information technology reducing transaction costs to effectively zero – pay in either currency anywhere.

There could be western and eastern Schengen zones, but with visas for both on everyone’s national identity card – travel in either direction without a passport.

Misjudging this technological tide has been one of the EU’s biggest mistakes. As Brussels was working towards a single currency, computers were making it possible to exploit the advantages of multiple currencies.

Economists were fascinated by the idea and there was a brief fashion for local exchange trading systems but the eurozone pressed on with its simplistic political mega-project, unable to imagine any other kind of unity but one size fits all.

Quite. We won’t be going back to the old days

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  • terence patrick hewett

    It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
    To call upon a neighbour and to say:
    “We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
    Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

    And that is called asking for Dane-geld
    And the people who ask it explain
    That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
    And then you’ll get rid of the Dane

    It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
    To puff and look important and to say:
    “Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
    We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

    And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
    But we’ve proved it again and again,
    That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
    You never get rid of the Dane.

    It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
    For fear they should succumb and go astray;
    So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
    You will find it better policy to say:

    “We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
    No matter how trifling the cost;
    For the end of that game is oppression and shame,

    And the nation that pays it is lost”

    The RA and the DA are both expressions: its a grand auld loife.

    Flanders and and Swann do the EU agin.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’ll say this once, and I’ll say this again … I doubt that there will be Amazon style drones if drones are used. They will certainly have to be military grade.

    Secondly Mick… in terms of

    I’m sorry but if you look at the pre-80’s technology throughout our public services you would doubt modernity was going to be easily brought in.

    The basic assumption is that drones will be up and running easier than you can say … well anything … I mean there’s a lot of storytelling that has emerged from this debate and little physical actions actually implemented.

    Instead of thinking about the poor saps being caught up in checkpoint queues, I’m thinking of the poor saps having to program GPS scanning devices that have to monitor and detect the customs divergence on both side of the border.

    For Newton to compare that to toll evasion surveillance where cars do go through checkposts is a tad insulting.

  • mickfealty

    I’m very sorry I mentioned it now. The point is there isn’t going to be drones. And there isn’t going to be queues at the border. It will likely be tracked in-country.

  • cu chulainn

    It doesn’t matter if the Tryptyque is a piece of paper in the window or electronic it is equally unacceptable. We have left customs posts, helicopters, watch towers etc. behind us and in no way can any rational person propose reintroducing them.
    Surveillance – that’s out
    Harrassment- that’s out
    Obstruction of trade- that’s out

  • Jollyraj

    “Surveillance – that’s out
    Harrassment- that’s out
    Obstruction of trade- that’s out”

    You’re laying it down in a very authoritative tone, but the above are all a question of what is reasonable.

    Surveillance? Fact of life in every country.

    Harassment? One would hope not – but what do you consider harassment? Being asked to show a driving license in a car? A passport at a border? Photo ID whwn buying a six pack?

    Obstruction of trade? If you’re crossing a border from Ireland to the UK or back, you would have to abide by current regulations.

  • cu chulainn

    Surveillance may be a fact of life in every country, but politically inspired surveillance concentrated on people crossing the border, who predominantly come from one community, is an end to the present peace. Instead stop criminality and not people engaged in trade.

  • Kevin Breslin

    This is just more idealism, you don’t have to be a genius to realise that customs issues cannot be hand waved. And if there’s WTO tariffs, I would assume they would have to be both ways on both sides of the border.

    Why are you trusting the we’ll spend “£350 million on the NHS” per week crowd on their no customs barrier comments when they’ve maxed out their integrity credit card?

    Would you take their comfort calls in lieu of medical advice if you were sick? Why would they bother to spend that money on the NHS if they could pay an actor to lie about the diagnosis at a cheaper rate?

    The bitter truth is this issue is a major problem and it will be paid for with major inconvenience.

    What annoys me the most is the statements that it will take 2 years (estimated) to build the infrastructure and the assumption that the infrastructure is already here.
    They clearly contradict one another.

    Forget engineering a bigger network, it is clear there is a legislative deficit here that needs to be filled, and that capacity will need to be altered in sync with new legislation.

    I’d want to give Newton credit for showing there is possibility for technology to deal with partitionist trade problems. However from a purely objective point of view the infrastructure would need to be put in place ASAP.

    Not just customs clearance would need to be checked, but tariff clearance as well.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If Northern Ireland is dragged out of the European Union Customs Union with ROI, or it is not part of a United Ireland then frankly Customs checks are mandatory necessity.

    The rational reason for introducing them is either the UK or the Republic of Ireland would have to surrender complete control over customs issues to a body it has no say in. For ROI that would be Westminster, for the UK it would be the post-Brexit EU.

    This is the political equivalent of eating your greens I’m afraid.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I would replace current with future in that hypothetical, current is not an option if Brexit occurs. Either a customs border emerges or the legislative jurisdictional border ends with a United Ireland.

    Basically either cross border smuggling takes in more things and requires more checks with an EU/non EU customs border, or we focus on smuggling only at the coasts in a United Ireland.

  • mickfealty

    You’re missing the point Kev. I was against Brexit remember? I’m merely suggesting Newt is right to suggest that there may be techno fixes for all the problems Brexit throws up.

  • Roy Reilly-Robertson

    I’m getting old and old fashioned but it seems to me that if Air Travel within countries is dependent, generally. on the production of a passport when it comes to borders and ‘control’ then the Sea becomes the Border and controls organised and run on the UK side as the UK is the country looking to control its borders. The knock on would be Border control at the Cairnryan side with the whole of the island of Ireland simply looked on as one entity. Not the result Arlene et al want but they will get what Westminster decides is cheapest and easiest to run. You might not have voted for creeping Hibernanism as a block but that might be how it runs. You cannot have the hard border from Donegal to Dundalk but you can and do have the sea border all around us.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m not making it personal, if it is personal it’s because of my own cummative 10 years of science and engineering studies that these issues will be fixed straightforwardly.
    Swiss customs control perhaps offer the best technological solution to an enclave like Northern Ireland, but that still comes with tariffs and customs checks attached.

  • Anglo-Irish
  • Anglo-Irish

    Unfortunately, I think you’re right.

    The sensible and most economic thing to do would be for both the EU and the UK to recognize the unique and historical relationship involved and make the UK ports and airports the hard border.

    Relying on politicians to do the sensible thing has not always proved to be successful.

    NI may well turn out to be unique – in the fullness of time – by being the only non EU region with more EU passport holders as a percentage of the population than holders of passports applying to the actual region.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think even having a customs treaty between the UK and EU would be the most sensible issue, but that would rely on the UK giving up a lot of the brinkmanship over the affairs of 27 neighbours.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think we may call being outside the EU but inside the EU customs terretory while belonging to another country The “Reverse Büsingen am Hochrhein”.

  • Anglo-Irish

    The inconvenience to both NI and ROI citizens will be considerable if there is an insistence on a ‘hard border’.

    As was proven during the Troubles even with armed troops, roadblocks and certain roads made impassable it still wasn’t possible to completely control the border.

    Some compromise needs to be reached and maybe designating NI as a Microstate for the purpose could be a solution.

  • Smithborough

    Maybe Northern Ireland can become a type of Campione?'Italia

  • chrisjones2

    Strangely it was possible for the Irish to control it during the foot and mouth outbreak – at huge expense paid by the EU so there is a model that COULD work

  • chrisjones2

    So no change then?

  • chrisjones2

    “you don’t have to be a genius to realise that customs issues cannot be hand waved”

    Yes they can . You set up a self reporting system like the EU sales lists then you inspect with large fines for noncompliance. Its doenst need 100% inspection and this new fangled thing called IT means you can run it in real time so if a Customs Man stops goods in transit he can see if the Export was notified

  • chrisjones2

    There is an easy solution. We just agree with Ireland a territory exchange…. so we develop rational boundaries based on major rivers. It all then becomes a lot easier.


  • Jollyraj

    ” but politically inspired surveillance concentrated on people crossing the border, who predominantly come from one community, …”

    I can’t see any substance to your strange, shrill suggestion that it would be Nationalists (assuming you mean Nats) under surveillance, rather than simply ‘people who are crossing the border’. If anybody seriously thinks that, perhaps they need to get over themselves.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Yes, because obviously controlling a border against a disease that is in everyone’s interest to eradicate for a nine month period is EXACTLY the same as controlling a border against every type of bureaucratic infringement required by both the EU and the UK for ever and a day isn’t it?

  • cu chulainn

    I think the Clyde would a good one for this.

  • cu chulainn

    Of course, there are ways forward on this, what is not clear is the intention of the delinquent British government and their local stooges.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t mean to insult you but you seem to know nothing about IT if you think this is a mere handwaving exercise.

  • Kevin Breslin

    There was not a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the European Union.

    The only ones who says that this will not return to a patrolled, enforced and bureaucratic customs barrier again (That’s the bare minimum, we can expect.) are propagandists of Vote Leave like Lee Reynolds.

    It’s all empty rhetoric to console gullible people at the end of the day. Perhaps the people will catch on they’ve been “duped” and liars will lose their mandate.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well it was David Davis who was happy to threaten the Davis-geld on both sides of the border if the EU nations wouldn’t offer Britain free special treatment in the world.

    So we basically you’re advising UK to rip off the 27 EU nations so that 27 EU nations can rip off HMRC … C standing for customs of course.

    Yip only losers are governments.

  • chrisjones2

    Now now …..Gerry will sue

  • chrisjones2

    But is showed that physically the controls can be imposed if the EU is stupid enough

  • chrisjones2

    I was answering one of your interminable and always negative rants that can see no simple way around anything

    Indeed, WITHIN the EU there is already the AEO system which makes it easier to move parts / work between sites in different EU states. This relies on in house recording of movement and post hoc audit by HMRC etc.

    A similar system could easily be adopted if the EU and UK chose to do it.

    And before you go off on one again that this is inside the EU and it will all be different fro outside note that i said a ‘similar system’ and yes it wont be as hard as a hard border but then with the AEO system billions of pounds worth of goods flow though this system and the risk are managed.

    No customs systems are completely secure.

    PS Please dont watch Poldark. I am not sure that your heart could stand it

  • Anglo-Irish

    Not really, it showed that in a particular instance when everyone wanted the same outcome and the single objective was known it could work over a short period of time.

    If the control were to be extended to virtually every aspect of travel between the two jurisdictions it would be incredibly disruptive and time consuming.

    What should be taken into consideration here is that Brexiteers are making a huge deal of the referendum outcome, and the fact that although it isn’t binding on Parliament the democratic wish of the people must be recognised.

    That is fair enough, they won and their wishes are entitled to consideration.

    It works both ways though, what about the democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland?

    NI people voted to Remain, despite which they are going to be the ones most affected by Brexit.

    Both the UK and the EU need to take account of that when entering into negotiations.

    A compromise needs to be found in order to maintain the good relations and cooperation following on from the GFA.

    Northern Ireland has suffered enough over the years and its situation should be given serious consideration in any agreements reached by both parties.

    As to whether that will happen, your guess is as good as mine.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Of course there isn’t a simple solution to this, none of the theoretical solutions proposed by Vote Leave are going to work, because it requires a worked solution, not the pie in the sky fantasy stuff.

    On the practical matters, there won’t be a system … there will be 2 systems, and 2 systems that are going to have to work with one another.

    Sure there is going to be common ground, but effectively divergent customs procedures and 2 sets of regulations, possibly tariffs too are going to have to be integrated into the UK-EU trade arrangement.

    As they are in every EU trade arrangement with a 3rd nation outside the EU’s Customs Union.

    It’s the dismissive hand waves that is affirming the sort of lack of planning that will see things end up with manned checkpoints on the roads between Derry and Muff, Stabane and Lifford, Newry and Carlingford because of the laissez faire attitude of the UK government and the DUP.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You could quarantine an entire city on a health and safety issue.

  • chrisjones2

    Forgive me Kevin but isnt all that stuff what trade agreements are about? the devil is in the operational detail and its a risk balance of cost / complexity vs revenue protection. The point is that when we agree the big terms ie the actual rates / system we can then start to finalise the detail – they are symbiotic

  • Kevin Breslin

    The fact is the UK are mandated to rip up a trade agreement with minimal complexity or revenue damage to cross border affairs, and replace it with something a lot more bureaucratic, a lot more costly for what seem simply to be esoteric benefits in terms of Northern Ireland.

  • Skibo

    No problem Chris. Let Ireland have all west of the Irish sea. The UK can keep all on the east of it. 😉

  • Skibo

    Rules are made for honest men. Laws are made for dishonest men.
    What makes you think the system will be followed?
    The Tolls on the M50 can be done on line yet numerous drivers from the north are being chased for nonpayment of tolls. That works on a license recognition system. How would you record goods inside a container?