The Guardian has posted an early lead from its Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald quoting NI Secretary James Brokenshire saying that:
London and Dublin will work to strengthen Ireland’s external borders in order to combat illegal migration into the UK once it leaves the European Union.
“There was now a high level of collaboration on a joint programme of work” between the two states to control immigration.
We have put in place a range of measures to further combat illegal migration working closely with the Irish government,” Brokenshire said. “Our focus is to strengthen the external border of the common travel area [CTA], building on the strong collaboration with our Irish partners.”
But this is not – or not yet -a Trojan horse for Ireland to impose restrictions on freedom of movement for EU nationals from other countries on the UK’s behalf. By itself it seems no more than extended use of high tech to monitor movements from outside these islands into them. This is already part of the CTA agreement.
The Republic has already proposed finessing the thornier issue of open entry for EU nationals on which EU leaders Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel are so far firmly against making concessions.
In a follow-up analysis Alan Travis the Home Editor quotes an earlier statement by Dan Mullhall, the Republic’s ambassador to London.
It seems to me that only a relatively small number of European Union citizens would want to come to the UK illegally.”
Mulhall said in the “worst-case scenario” that the UK government decided to curb freedom of movement to prevent all other EU citizens living and working in Britain, the Irish border would not pose an additional risk. All EU citizens would presumably still have the right to enter and visit Britain and pass any external passport control, so any future work permit system would likely be enforced with internal checks by employers through a registration, national insurance or identity card system.”
The report is a neat piece of spin to draw attention to the use of technology for border administration, allowing it to happen elsewhere than the literal border line. If tech can soften the hard border issue for illegal immigration, then it can fudge for the other categories. Or so the two governments hope. That, and help win the agreement of the 26 other EU members.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London