Where is the eborder to be drawn…

Trevor Smith, a Lib Dem peer from York has a piece in the excellent Our Kingdom (a must read for any unionists who still care about the integrity of the link between the constituent parts of the UK) on the eborders issue. In particular he touches on the dilemma for both parts of Ireland of where the border might be drawn:

If the e-borders are drawn around the UK to include Northern Ireland, that will be welcomed by political Unionism, if less so by Northern Irish business. Equally, if they are drawn round Great Britain, excluding Northern Ireland, that would be more acceptable to Irish nationalist sentiment but risks alienating the Unionists; a classic illustration of the zero-sum nature of politics in Northern Ireland.

Contriving a system that would cover both the UK and all -Ireland is not without its difficulties: while it would preserve the CTA, it would strengthen the link between the Republic and the UK and would thus detract from the former’s more recently acquired identity as an enthusiastic member-state of the EU – and that would create a political problem for Dublin. Indeed why should the Republic accept this if it seems like a step backwards?

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  • “why should the Republic accept this if it seems like a step backwards?”

    Because if they’re genuine about pushing “all-Ireland” at every opportunity they’ll have to work within the constraints of the current constitutional settlement which means a lot of all-Ireland initiatives are only realistic within an all-British Isles context.

    As an example take mobile phone markets. It would be a backward step (and cutting off our nose to spite our face) to have an “all-Ireland” mobile phone market, as was proposed some time back by nationalists and would be particularly beneficial to those living in border areas, if it means that anyone travelling to the mainland is “roaming” instead.

    It might be a bitter pill to swallow at first, but surely is the least worst option.

  • Only Asking

    I think the republic would like to be included, since they are having their problems too with a huge influx of immigration. Particularly in and around Dublin – if it involved a voluntary agreement. Something both sides could sign up to.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘travelling to the mainland’ – beano

    do you live on rathlin or somewhere beano?

  • cut the bull

    beano

    An all Ireland mobile phone network would benefit the people in all 32 counties not only those country cousins who are being robbed daily, and I would say if the network providers could stretch this service to include England,Scotland, Wales and if people were really persistant maybe even Tory Island,Rathlin Island and the Isle of Man

  • ctb, personally I’d rarely see much benefit. In fact all in all I probably spend more time across the water than across the border (though it’d be a close call).

    My point is simply that if there is a real benefit in an all-Ireland approach to something, it’s all dandy, as long as we don’t lose anything in implementing it. A UK & RoI single mobile phone market would probably be much easier than a single “e-border” but I think the principle still applies.

  • Wilde Rover

    Do windows in cyberspace need dressing too?

  • jonny

    dublin and london will decide the arrangement. Stormont will have very little say in the final arrangement

  • Mayoman

    Jonny,the first example of what, in reality, is joint authority?

  • lib2016

    Mayoman,

    we’ve seen a slow increase in joint authority taking place over the last twenty years. What is interesting now is the extent to which Dublin speaks in defence of the North while London continues to suck all UK goodies towards SE England.

  • elvis

    Beano
    The trouble for the proponents of ‘All Ireland’ solutions is that nearly everything they argue needs an All Ireland solution would also benefit from an Ireland & GB solution!

  • Oiliféar

    If the Republic throws its lot in with the UK then it effectively rules itself out of Schengen, which the UK is never going to go for, for no good reason. Shengen, ironically, would answer everybody’s concerns (at least on this board): the Republic would stay happily linked to the European mainstream; the British (sp.?) Isles would all be linked together in union.

    (It always makes me smile to think how committed the Republic is in fact to being in an “ever increasing union” with the UK – really, its the UK that seem less enthusiastic about it. A nationalist/unionist role reversal?)

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Interesting website Mick, and Oiliféar makes a good point – if the UK were more integrated into the EU, couldn’t much of the debate over Northern Ireland be rendered moot?!?

    (…probably not, but surely worth discussing!)

  • Quagmire

    When politicians in Britain refer to the UK we all know what they really mean is the island of Britain. They couldn’t give two hoots about the north. I would suspect that even the majority of citizens living in Britain wouldn’t even know the constitutional status of the north. Having any kind of visible, restrictive border on the Island of Ireland would be of no interest to the business community living here,unionist or nationalist, and indeed would ultimately be a backward step in an economic sense. As the old saying goes “where economics/money goes politics is bound to follow”.

  • Elvis Parker

    “where economics/money goes politics is bound to follow”.
    Quagmire – I dont think thats true. British firms have increasingly taken over the Irish retailing scene for example and there is a stronger logic to having a single GB and Irish economy and government but I dont think the Republic will rejoin the UK

  • Oiliféar

    “there is a stronger logic to having a single GB and Irish economy…” – we have formed a single market (and been in political union) since 1992. This is a fact.

    “…but I dont think the Republic will rejoin the UK” – it is the UK that is driving a wedge between us by rejecting that union. We, in the Republic, extoll it. We love it! Bring more of it!! But we are, unfortunately, restricted from pursuing union with the UK by the UK’s patent rejection of it.

    A question was put in the Irish Times a week or two back. These are the circumstances facing Northern Ireland:

    * It looks like the UK is going to ring-fence Great Britain, cutting off Northern Ireland for the purpose of border controls.
    * The UK has rejected forming a single emigration union with the Republic (likewise the Republic, as doing so would forever ruin the Republic’s chance of further pursuit of union i.e. Schengen).
    * We know that the UK is uninterested in joining Schengen.

    The question was, in these circumstance, would Northern Ireland be interested in joining Schengen with the Republic? There would be nothing to be lost in terms of the practicality of travel to and from the UK. There would be gains for the both North and South in terms of ease of travel, tourism and increased movement of labour to and from the continent. The Republic would be eternally grateful as the land border with the UK that partitions the island is the only reason that we are not in Schengen already.

    Would it be too great a thing to ask? It was posited that it would be possible under Schengen rules. So accepting that it would, for the time being – and knowing that it’s not what ye want – what say ye? (Schengen, I believe, is renege-able should the UK ever change in it’s position with regard to ring-fencing Great Britain.)

  • “There would be gains for the both North and South in terms of ease of travel, tourism and increased movement of labour to and from the continent.”

    1. Ease of travel- you’d still need to get on that aeroplane to reach the rest of the Zone!!!
    Schengen “helps travel” once you actually get on the mainland, you can drive basically from the West coast of France right through to the Western border of the Ukraine without having to show your passport once. But you still need to get onto that mainland.

    2. Tourism- has one EU tourist been put off visiting the island because neither of us are in Schengen?
    Would one extra EU tourist arrive because we’re in Schengen?

    3.Free movement of labour-neither of us seem to be doing too bad in that regard at the minute. But Schengen helps the free movement of EU citizens, not necessarily workers; the labour regulations in place for many of the “New EU” citizens in Germany, Austria etc will remain in place post January.

    So, the specific advantages for the proposal of NI joining the ROI in Schengen are really negligible unless the rest of the UK joins at the same time.

  • lib2016

    Several stories on page 12 of today’s Irish Times about today’s extension of the Schengen Zone which now includes two non-EU countries (Iceland and Norway) and a clutch of new east European states. Twentyfour countries in all with a total population of 400 people and with Cyprus,Romania and Bulgaria lining up to join.

    The choice is being put as one between increased trade as against the possibility of increased security risks.

    Gay Mitchel (Fine Gael MEP) and EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini are being quoted as favouring Ireland joining the Schengen zone with Bertie being against it.

    If the UK goes ahead with demanding passports for admission to Britain then does anyone see the point of Ireland staying out of the zone?

  • Oiliféar

    O’Neill:

    On point number one, the same argument can be used to say that border controls between Northern Ireland andGreat Britain will not reduce ease of travel. In your own words: “…you’d still need to get on that aeroplane to reach the rest of the Zone!!!” If that really is true then why are Northern Ireland’s politicians whinging over this?

    On point two, from personal experience of living in the Netherlands for two years I have to say that Schengen definitely increases tourism. Today, you now need a passport to get into the UK or Ireland compared to essentially the rest of Europe. This is off-putting to a generation of Europeans who, like Americans, are growing up in a world where they do not need a passport.

    This is true also for non-EU residents workers of other European countries. They can travel freely around Schengen on the basis of their visa for one country, bringing their tourist euros with them, but avoid the UK or Ireland because they need to apply for separate tourist visas. Out of 20 or so close colleagues who were non-EU working residents in the Netherlands, all expressed a desire to visit the UK or Ireland (Scotland especially), but none did so on account of the hassle of reapplying for visas.

    Why apply for a passport or a visa to visit Belfast or Dublin when I can visit Cologne, Ghent, Barcelona, Prague, Oslo, Reykjavik, or a thousand-and-one other destinations hassel-free? (And before you say it, this also has nothing to do with aeroplanes as, believe it or not, people also fly from A to B on the continent also – it’s a very big place to drive from end-to-end.

    On point three, the free movement of labour is, like tourism, aided by removing the hassles. It is also a distinct advantage, in a competitive environment, to offer a work visa to a non-EU national that allows them the free-run of touring Europe for the duration of their work in your country. At present work visas for the UK and Ireland stand out as distinctly unattractive to high-calibre knowledge workers for this reason in contrast to the rest of Europe. It’s a matter of competitiveness in attracting the brightest talent in a global economy.

    Your last sentence makes no sense: “… the specific advantages for the proposal of NI joining the ROI in Schengen are really negligible unless the rest of the UK joins at the same time.” If you believe that Schengen does not present advantages to the Republic and Northern Ireland then why would the rest of the UK joining Schengen make any difference?

  • John East Belfast

    beano

    “As an example take mobile phone markets. It would be a backward step (and cutting off our nose to spite our face) to have an “all-Ireland” mobile phone market, as was proposed some time back by nationalists and would be particularly beneficial to those living in border areas, if it means that anyone travelling to the mainland is “roaming” instead.”

    Exactly – if the minority of NI citisens who spend more time on an ROI tariff than a UK one want to have a permanent ROI tariff then fine – they can take out an ROI contract.

    What you dont do is change the entire tarrif of Belfast, North Down and Antrim – the mass of the population – to what suits the border area at the expense of what suits the rest of us.

    That is the problem with all this All Ireland stuff where people are putting their politics and nostalgia above common sense practicalities and efficiency.

    Less than a 100 miles across the sea we have 55 million people who speak the same language, share the same currency and laws and have largely similar outlooks on life.

    We would have a serious hole in our head to do anything that would upset are ability to travel and trade with such a market just to get closer to 4m + people we share an island with.

    That is the nonsense of a separatist Ireland the points of which will become more glaringly apparent as we proceed from here.

    All Irelanders are increasingly clutching at all manner of straws to support their agenda

  • Quagmire

    Elvis Parker

    I believe you are correct in your assertion that the ROI has no wish to re-join the UK, just as in the north of Ireland an ever-increasing minority has no wish to retain their status with that entity. Furthermore I believe that an economic union with the UK is completely non-relevant as our membership of the EU ensures the freedom of movement of peoples, moneys etc. In other words we are already in union with the UK in an economic sense through the institutions of the EU. I believe that Westminister is putting the squeeze on the north i.e. e-borders, Varney report etc, in an attempt to slowly break the connection with “our wee country” as Dublin becomes an ever more active player in the north i.e. the NDP.Basically Gordon Brown is saying if you don’t like it you know where to go.

  • Oiliféar

    John, it’s the 55 miles across water that makes the argument in favour of two separate markets. I posit that it’s nostalgia and straw-clutching to believe that it’s better to roam while crossing an artificial land border than to roam while crossing a natural sea border.

    In any case, the formula to decide whether to “switch” or not would be the amount of time the average resident of Northern Ireland spends on Britain compared to the amount of time they spend on Ireland south of the border.

  • Oiliféar,

    My point regarding the tourism potential of joining Schengen is that having to carry and produce a passport really doesn’t deter people from making a visit to the ROI, NI or the UK as a whole. I take your point about the situation in the Netherlands, but I really don’t think you’re comparing like with like when you compare the situation on mainland Europe with our own. Schengen has made it easier for people living in, say, Strasbourg to pop across to Germany for the weekend, but the UK or ROI joining would not really make that much difference to that kind of casual tourism. We simply can’t wish away the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

    Regarding the free movement of labour, Holland, like the UK and ROI, has been quite liberal in its granting of work-permits generally and specifically to residents of the New EU. Yes, once in Schengen you’ve more travel possibilities at the weekend, but you still need the work to be able to pay for it. The crucial question, surely, for high calibre workers is: “Can I work in that country?”
    Most of Western Europe is quite restrictive in that regard, Germany, for example, operates a very limited “green card” scheme for foreign IT workers- the Uk and ROI, in comparison, have reaped the economic rewards by operating a pretty much open-door policy, staying outside Schengen really hasn’t been that much of a disadvantage in that regard.

    “If you believe that Schengen does not present advantages to the Republic and Northern Ireland then why would the rest of the UK joining Schengen make any difference?”

    Overall, I can’t see any reason why the UK shouldn’t join Schengen, it simply makes it easier for people to visit us, that’s it. But I also can’t see a tangible advantage for NI joining, whilst the rest of the UK stops out. It would be lovely to believe that people from outside the Isles, deciding to work here for a year or more, would be content to spend their whole time exploring the delights of the N.Antrim coast or taking the tourist bus up the Falls and Shankill. But at some stage I reckon they’re going to want to expand their horizons and see what the bigger island has to offer and if the rest of the UK stays outside Schengen, then NI would reap no advantage from being inside the Zone.

  • lib2016

    Britain is drifting further and further away from the heart of Europe and both the Labour and Conservative Parties would tear themselves apart if they tried to do anything about it.

    The days when Ireland was hugely reliant on Britain are long gone. Our future lies with Europe and the wider world. Sooner or later we are going to have to face up to that fact.

    I still haven’t got any answer to my query as to why Bertie is so definite that Ireland will not join the 400 million strong Schengen Zone until the Brits do.

  • Oiliféar

    Fair points, O’Neill, but if you think I over-estimate, I think you underestimate. Looking at this map, we stand out like a sore thumb. The advantage of the “quick pop over to Germany” that you describe is of no advantage to six of the involved states: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland (member of the Nordic Passport Union that share no land border with non-members), Cyprus and Greece (fellow islanders). The question of “Can I work in that country?” is largely independent of Schengen, as you point out there are wide difference between signatory states.

    On your remark that, “We simply can’t wish away the English Channel and the Irish Sea.” I think by-and-large, actually, we can. I drove back from the Netherlands a fortnight ago with all my baggage in toe. True, twenty minutes of the journey was on a train, but the experience certainly was that I did not reach the ‘end-of-the-road’ until Fishguard. Ireland is definitely but Ryanair has also done a lot to make the jump a lot easier. Before I left, I told a friend who lives on the Dutch-German border that my house in Cork was only two and a half hours door-to-door from his own.

    I still don’t get what you mean by there being no benefit to Northern Ireland if the rest of the UK didn’t join. You say it has something with visa workers in Northern Ireland being limited to Belfast black taxis and the Giant’s Causeway – um … what about the lights of Paris? Icelandic geysers? Greek islands? The architecture of Barcelona? Belgian waffles? Czech beer? Venetian gondolas? Oh heck – you know, if Northern Ireland was to join along with the Republic, they could even trip down to the Cliffs of Moher if a third visit to the walls of Derry really proved too repetitive!

  • Oiliféar

    lib2016: Answer = he’s waiting for the North. (See Quagmire’s post above.)

  • Cut the bull>
    Living in Donegal the mobile phone thing is a sore point with a lot of people here!