The UK proposals on the border likely to underwhelm, as the Ref 2 debate hots up

Theresa May has had  the temporary excuse of being on holiday to explain away the continuing churn over Brexit inside and outside the government. No more. She returns from holiday this week. Little to comfort her awaits.  Rather than a produce a rallying cry the promised publication of several major Brexit policy documents by midweek is likely  to give both sides of the debate more ammunition to throw at each other.

By themselves they cannot constitute  a coherent strategy. But taken  together, will they  persuade the EU commission that enough is on offer from the British to allow the negotiations to move on to the crucial issues of trade, without  which no border solution and much else can be settled? This is surely the crucial point.

On the border, the Sunday Telegraph has received the traditional Sunday advance   

After Brexit EU nationals will be allowed to come on holiday in Ireland and not show passports to get into the UK. But they will not be allowed to work in the UK because they will not have a work permit.

The source said: “Irish citizens will fundamentally have better rights than other EU nationals.”

An estimated 20,000 people every year from the Irish Republic come to work on the British mainland.

The Irish border will be policed by “very advanced” CCTV cameras at border points such as automated number recognition systems which are commonly used by police in Britain.

The Government will also develop a trusted trader scheme which will allow goods to  be carried north and south from established firms.

If  the debate in Dublin in advance of the British proposals  is any guide, the response of the Irish political class to this will be very cool indeed. They will respond with a resounding chorus of “ big deal” on free movement and “ it won’t work” to technological solutions to the border problem.

But equally keenly awaited will be the response of the EU Commission. If the Commission receives the British proposals positively, the UK government will have taken its first effective initiative. The proposals on the border and the rest would be taken as work in progress and not the last word. Brussels’ and  Dublin’s responses would  be cautiously framed accordingly.   If not, where do we go from there?

Meanwhile, the debate on a second referendum has been hotting up.  Following on from May’s election disaster the political case was made earlier this week by the leading constitutional thinker, Vernon Bogdanor.    

The election re-opens the issue of Europe – for four reasons.

First, there is probably no Commons majority for May’s version of Brexit. Indeed, there is probably a stronger representation of remain MPs in parliament today than before the election.

Second, Labour’s electoral gains raise the question of whether the decision in the 2016 referendum is final: for, although Labour was not a remain party this year, the British Election Study found that the party’s “soft Brexit” policy played a large part in its substantial gain in votes. In constituencies where over 55% voted remain, the party achieved a swing of around 7%. The election was the revenge of the remainers.

Third, the election intensifies internal divisions in both major parties. If the eventual deal is too “hard”, Conservative remainers may join with their opposition counterparts to defeat it; if too “soft”, Tory Eurosceptics could ensure its rejection. There may be no majority for any of the forms of Brexit on offer, with the Commons deadlocked.

Fourth, the House of Lords – in which the pro-remain Liberal Democrats and crossbenchers hold the balance of power, and the proportion of remainers is probably even higher than in the Commons – will feel emboldened to reject a hard Brexit, arguing that a minority government has no mandate for it.

When he thought he was going to lose in 2016, Nigel Farage said that a further referendum would be needed: there is no doubt that Brexiteers would have continued their campaign to take Britain out of the EU and they would have had every democratic right to do so. But so equally do those who have doubts about the decision.

Brexit after all raises fundamental, indeed existential, issues for the future of the country. That is why the final deal needs the consent not only of parliament, but of a sovereign people.

Labour’s potential king over the water David Miliband entered the lists in the Observer.

Leaving the EU was mis-sold as a quick fix. Now it looks like a decade-long process of unscrambling the eggs of national and European legislation. Ministers cannot even agree among themselves the destination, the route map or the vehicles to get us there.

I never thought I would say this, but the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is also playing a valiant role. The transition he supports is vital. However, a transition postpones a rupture rather than avoiding it. Slow Brexit does not mean soft Brexit. Steve Baker, minister in the department leading the negotiations, has been refreshingly honest in saying the transition period is a “soft landing for a hard Brexit”. We have been warned

The case against the EU depends on avoiding a discussion of the alternative. IT is the equivalent of voting to repeal Obamacare without knowing the replacement. It is a stitch-up. That is one reason it is essential that parliament or the public are given the chance to have a straight vote between EU membership and the negotiated alternative. That is a democratic demand, not just a prudent one.

People say we must respect the referendum. We should. But democracy did not end on 23 June 2016. The referendum will be no excuse if the country is driven off a cliff. MPs are there to exercise judgment. Delegating to Theresa May and David Davis, never mind Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, the settlement of a workable alternative to EU membership is a delusion, not just an abdication.

Brexit is an unparalleled act of economic self-harm. But it was a big mistake to reduce the referendum to this question. The EU represents a vision of society and politics, not just economics. We need to fight on this ground too.

But “valiant” Philip Hammond is reported to have reached agreement with the arch-Leaver Liam Fox on what a transition would mean.

The ministers – representing the Remain and Leave wings of the Tory party –  say this will be “time limited” and designed to avoid a “cliff edge” that could damage British business.

Although they do not say how long this period will last, it will not represent an attempt to stay in the EU indefinitely, they say.

Whether this alleged  compact  is more than cosmetic and temporary  remains to be seen. Hammond seems to be saying, “sure, of course we’ll quit the single market and the customs union” while bidding to replace it with third nation or bilateral arrangements which amount to pretty much the practical status quo. Fox’s language  envisages far greater freedom and opportunity to cut deals with the wider world.

As Theresa May returns from holiday this week, we can expect she’ll try to put her own stamp of authority on the publication of the Brexit papers to quell unrest in the cabinet and party. And her chances of success, according to the Mail on Sunday?

Theresa May will try to head off a threat to sack her as Prime Minister by making a public plea to Tory supporters to give her another chance.

She will make a grovelling apology at the Conservative Party Conference for the loss of the Government’s majority at the General Election.

News of Mrs May’s ‘mea culpa’ speech – live on TV in a Sunday confessional at the start of the rally in Manchester on October 1, and three days before her main speech – came as the Tories were rocked by more divisions.

It emerged last night that:

  • Former Minister and pro-EU Conservative MP Anna Soubry warned she could quit the party if Mrs May pursued a ‘hard Brexit’ stance;
  • Pro-Brexit MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has reportedly let slip his own secret plan to succeed Mrs May; ( he denied it, sort of, this morning)
  • Chancellor Philip Hammond and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson are said to be poised to back a leadership bid by fellow ‘soft Brexit’ supporter Home Secretary Amber Rudd.



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  • Gavin Crowley

    US Canada border has only roughly 120 normal crossings, + 40 closed roads + 10 cul-de-sac/special roads where you can’t connect to the other country’s network.
    It’s a lot less complicated than the Irish-UK border.–United_States_border_crossings

  • Oggins

    Agree it’s the law, but doesn’t mean that it is happening in every case. It would be foolish to be thinking otherwise.

    In terms of after Brexit, yes it will be no different in relation to visas etc but it will be more of a focus especially when they decide on what controls are required

  • Dan2

    We’ll see…

  • Aodh Morrison

    Ah, a modicum of understanding!

    You are correct. Driving an uninsured vehicle is indeed not ‘political’. In that regard it’s exactly like vandalising public infrastructure: criminal.

  • Mike the First

    On Brexit issues. But the government needs a majority for more than that.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Border patrols are irrelevant to terrorism in general. The only time a border patrol ever gets terrorists is when they catch them in the act of trying to blow up the border checkpoint.

  • runnymede

    ‘Meanwhile, the debate on a second referendum has been hotting up…’

    No it hasn’t. This is pure fantasy.

  • runnymede

    Compliance is in fact not usually checked at the border. This is not accurate – the bulk of third country firms are permitted to self-certify under EU single market rules and only a very small proportion of shipments are ever inspected.

  • runnymede

    Border criminality has never ended, if you mean smuggling. Indeed, the UK suffers quite considerable excise etc. revenue losses as a result of it but has chosen to swallow this to keep things smooth.

  • Jag

    “Presumably Ireland will reciprocate for UK living and working in Ireland.”

    No we won’t/can’t. This is just a Trojan Horse (one fit only for the knacker’s yard) from the Tories to try to lever access to markets post-Brexit. Aint gonna happen. Ireland is part of the EU.

  • runnymede

    But the quantity of cross-border traffic is colossal by contrast, which matters a lot. Whereas frankly the NI/ROI border is a backwater about which it makes little sense to get very concerned.

  • Jag

    Like erecting flags on public property, or dumping tyres and stolen pallets on public land and setting it all alight, destroying homes and releasing carcinogenic pollutants?

  • runnymede

    Yes, the UK is offering Irish citizens a privileged position here, including in the UK labour market. Still if the ROI government doesn’t want that, fair enough…

  • Jag

    When a third rate backbencher wipes the floor with Jeffrey Donaldson (Nolan radio today), you can assume the game is up for the DUP.

    Modern technology might well be able to recognise a number plate on a vehicle, and by sharing databases, provide access to the identity of the registered owner, but that’s it. You won’t necessarily know if the number plate/vehicle is valid, you won’t know if the registered owner is driving, you won’t know who else is in the vehicle (number, nationalities, criminal status), and you won’t know what’s in the boot or back of the lorry.

  • Jag

    Which is a scandal, and is being addressed. Chlorinated chicken is forever, like Monsanto’s genetically modified food. Come back to the UK in a generation, and you’ll all look like a cross between Edwin Poots and Christopher Salford.

  • Aodh Morrison

    Read back over the posts!

    I was not talking about smuggling, nor was my interlocutor.

    The discussion followed a post threatening infrastructure (cameras would regime a “guard”) the premise being that any border management solutions found unacceptable by self appointment ‘community activists’ would be destroyed in what would be criminal acts.

    Criminal acts in the border area = border criminality.

  • Salmondnet

    The wish being father to the fantasy.

  • Roger

    We’ve both agreed that presently visa required nationals lawfully in Ireland need UK visas to cross border into United Kingdom. There are no systematic checks. Post Brexit when some EU national could need visas to do the same, the position will. E the same. You’ve not pointed to how anything will change.

  • Roger

    Is there an EU rule against conferring free movement on nationals of a third country? I don’t think so.

  • Oggins

    At the moment a Filipino could fly into Dublin on an Irish Visa, and drive up north, or across the North to head to Donegal say. At the moment the chances of being stopped for not having a visa are slim, minor. Once Brexit kicks in it will change.

    So my point is, it will be the first time it will be proper enforced. Personally I think the visa element should allow access to NI purely because of the tourism and business interests, but that won’t happen.

  • lizmcneill

    Why is it any better for people who don’t belong here to make decisions for us, as long as they’re English? What makes the UK, a collection of countries, any more valid than the EU, a collection of countries?

  • lizmcneill

    Might as well put up dummy cameras. They’ll be just as useful, and cheaper to replace when someone decides to take potshots at them.

  • Roger

    How will it change? What enforcement changes have been announced or even mooted?

  • Oggins

    Fair point, a lot of it is up in the air at the moment. There are an abundance of opinions on how it will work. There are those that say there will be checks, there is those with technology ideas. Ultimately it will require the said Filipino national to get two visas. Either the check point or the camera will identify the person or persons as not having a visa.

    Here is one for you; if the border goes frictionless with cameras, and our said Filipino friend takes a hire car up north for Dublin Airport with no UK visa what happens when he crossed illegally?

    I honestly believe ( nothing to do with political opinion) that some sort of special status is the best option. I think it would make it a lot easier for all. I think it’s nuts that some people will require two visas for this Island.

    Anyway, I will await further information over the near future from the negotiations

  • Oggins

    My whole point goes back to the fact regularly people are crossing the border without the visa, rightly or wrongly and was never enforced due to being no hard border. Now that is going to change, or have to be enforced

  • Michael Dowds

    for animals and products of animal origin, compliance is checked at the border, specifically at a Border Control Post (Regulation (EU) 2016/429 and Regulation (EU) 2016/625).

    Have a look here:

    Unlike me, this guy’s pro-Brexit but unlike most Brexiteers, he has a feasible plan about how to DO Brexit.

    The whole plan is here, it’s well worth a read IMHO:

  • runnymede

    I hate to let you down but I am well aware of Dr.North’s writings.

    Yes, on animal products there is an issue.

    But on the great majority of other products, which form the bulk of UK foreign trade, the situation is very different. Dr. North’s claims in this area have been largely debunked by other researchers. See e.g.

  • Skibo

    After Brexit, EU Nationals will still be allowed to come and live and work in Ireland. That will not change. If there is an open border they will have access to the North and if there are no passport checks on the ferries, to GB also.
    The issue of work should be qualified, they will not be allowed to work “legally” in the UK. The issue of controlling the illegal working of EU nationals will be come a greater issue.
    If illegals make their way to the UK, with children, their children will have a right to education and then apply for residency.

  • Michael Dowds

    I don’t feel let down and don’t suspect that you have strong feelings either way about my emotional well being vis a vis your knowledge of Richard North.

    Thanks for the link.

  • Jag

    Won’t be any need for the police to get involved, just as long as those on the Border can claim it needs a “multi-agency approach”, the Border will be police-free.

  • Skibo

    What part of governance do you think the British Government did not control?

  • Skibo

    I thought the RHI scheme was linked to requirements for renewable energy agreed across the world to combat global warming. Are you suggesting that the UK do the same as the USA and pull out of the Paris Agreement?

  • The worm!

    Did I?

  • Skibo

    Well even when the UK comes out of the EU, I assume they will still have to stand over agreements on green energy. Where do you stand on the UK abiding by previous agreements?

  • Dan2

    Think you need your ears cleaned out.

  • Roger

    Whether visa required people are regularly entering United Kingdom via its border with Ireland isn’t a fact established to my satisfaction at all. But it is pretty irrelevant here. You’re saying there is going to be change but saying nothing about who has proposed any change.

  • Oggins

    I think there is plenty of wish washy proposals from the governments British, Irish and Brexit camps.

    Hard border, soft border, electronic control, Freedom of movement to be agreed, quite a bit already said, so didn’t think I would need to clarify that!?!

    In terms of the visa, your right. As said previously discussions, it would be nice to know. With the majority of international travel coming in and out of Dublin for Ireland I am guessing the tour guide companies sort this for them. It would be an interesting to see those who book their own travel and accommodation, to see if they address this.

    I say it would make a good idea that an agreement on an all island visa, to allow tourists to move freely and less the costs and paperwork as well.

    There are a few examples of this.

  • Aodh Morrison

    Are people on the border still feeling nostalgic for the times when they tried to make the border “police-free”? Who’d have thought the “Peace Process” was such a thin veneer?

  • Roger

    I’ve only ever heard so far that the CTA will continue as before. No change for visa required nationals (VRNs).

    Talk of cameras etc concerns customs. Not CTA.

    Cameras could increase chance of illegals being caught. Good job if they do.

    People often require two visas for Ireland and United Kingdom. A review of my posting history here will show I’ve pointed out that the CTA is a ‘double visa zone’ for many VRNs. It might surprise you to know the following:

    *Filipino with Schengen visa transiting through a UK Airport on way to Schengen destination: No UK transit visa required.
    *Filipino transiting through a UK Airport to Ireland: UK transit visa required.

    Beyond the above VRNs don’t generally risk crossing into Northern Ireland region of UK without UK visa. They know it’s risky. They conclude, mostly, it’s not worth the risk. They abide by the law.

  • Oggins

    So what’s your bases to define that it is the case? That they see it as too risky?

  • The worm!

    Man, did you not hear?

    They haven’t gone away you know!

  • The worm!

    What on earth are you actually on about?

    What agreements?, specific ones or just all of them?, what was the “agreement” in the first place?, care to give me all the details of it or just make baseless assumptions like everyone else here? etc, etc, etc.

    It’s been over a year, you lost the referendum, get over it!

    Life’s too short man, seriously!

  • Reader
  • Roger

    Yes. Too risky. Any immigration infraction imperils all future visa applications they might ever make. It’s just not worth it.

  • Roger

    Immigration isn’t an EU matter. Ireland isn’t in Schengen. CTA arrangements can continue and that is what both U.K. and Irish governments have indicated.

  • Oggins

    No sorry, what’s your evidence for this? Like my own view it’s only opinion (yours) and identified I would love to see if there was any data.

    There is countless undocumented in most western countries. So not too risky

  • Oggins

    Yeah I get CTA, but that only applies for Irish and British movement.

    How will immigration not be an issue for the EU?!

  • Georgie Best

    You must show preference for EU nationals in jobs etc, if none are available then you can allow non EU people.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Except that the Americans and Canadians are quite happy with the border and where it runs.

    Not the case here where it goes almost exclusively through areas where people vote in the main for political parties who want to get rid of it.

  • Roger

    Not aware of any data.
    The numbers caught might be out there. I’d say they are tiny. Reflecting how little of it goes on.

  • Roger

    I don’t think that’s correct. Immigration is a member state matter. You simply can’t treat your own nationals better than other EU nationals.

  • Oggins

    Or could be how little policing is actually done?

  • Georgie Best

    No, people are not nostalgic for these times, which is why we want to stop them returning. Why do you want them back?

  • Georgie Best

    This infrastructure is not designed for the public, but for English Tories.

  • Jag

    When the UK leaves the EU, EU rules prevent us from allowing non-EU citizens (Albanians, Bangladeshis and Brits for example) into the EU.

    If you have an Irish (that is, EU) passport, then we’ll make an exception.

  • Roger

    If it’s a material problem, it’s remarkable how little attention it receives.

    I suspect there is not much of it going on. UKNI isn’t that big a draw.

    If it were the London region of the U.K. maybe…

  • Aodh Morrison

    I don’t want them back. That’s the point.

    You need to have a look at the demographic that is threatening illegal activity in response to a suggested post-Brexit border.

  • Oggins

    Again missing the point but maybe purposely?

    The point is how many are crossing the border illegal because they are in Ireland in a holiday, unknowingly or knowingly crossing the board with out the visa. Not sure when London moved to the border counties.

  • james

    Not quite sure what point you’re trying to make…

  • Georgie Best

    I must have misunderstood, your opposition to change without agreement was not obvious. If you were in favour of such changes then you would want the bad old days back.

  • Roger

    Not sure if you’ve purposely ignored that I already addressed this. But I did.

    No one suggested London had moved to a county bordering Ireland either…

  • Aodh Morrison

    Again you threaten violence.

    The U.K. Has voted to leave the EU. NI is a region within the UK (check the GFA if you need clarification on that point).

    Arguing that a return to nationalist violence would be a legitimate response to a political problem strongly suggests there are some (the ones making the threats) who do indeed “want the bad old days back” if they do not get their way.

  • Skibo

    What agreements? The 2020 climate and energy package, the 2030 climate and energy framework. It is through these agreements that levels of green energy are agreed.
    The UK has also signed the Paris Agreement so I assume that not being part of the EU will not effect the levels that the UK has to achieve.
    It was you who raised the issue of levels and fines in trying to blame the EU again for something we have to do.
    Yes the referendum was lost across the UK as a whole but we have a get-out card. Reunification of Ireland puts us back into the largest free trade area in the world.
    Ireland was a backward economy before the EU with the economy having trouble seeing past the UK.
    The UK itself was known as the “sick man of Europe”. It is not a coincidence that following 40 years of membership of the EU that Ireland has a booming economy and the UK was the sixth largest economy in the world.
    Problem with the UK is the English are starting to believe their own publicity that they are a great nation again.

  • Sprite

    but you/Ireland already do under the CTA unless you think Irish people would be better off unable to travel, live and work freely in the UK? I don’t think that’d be too popular a proposition.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Northerners take the diesel and the petrol, Southerners take the fags and booze …

  • Kevin Breslin

    Not all movement for nationals of third countries is “free”, it’s up to the nation.

    I see the Brits being allowed in Ireland but denied fully free entry across the Schegen nations given their draconian migration rules.

  • Roger

    Not all movement for nationals of third countries is “free”, it’s up to the nation.

    Don’t think that point was in question…

    I see the Brits being allowed in Ireland but denied fully free entry across the Schegen nations given their draconian migration rules.

    Possible. My question remains: if the Brits who enter Ireland have greater freedom than non Irish EU nationals*, is that against any rules. I don’t think so, though interested to hear anyone’s insights on the point.

    *there are some limitations on the rights of EU nationals to move around the EU etc.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t think that is the case, it may be the case that non-EU nationals like the British may be prevented from using Ireland as the means to get jobs in EU institutions.