If there is to be a hard border, it will be the EU that imposes it, say the British

No surprise then that little new has emerged in the British paper on the border.

It’s right that as we shape the unprecedented model, we have some very clear principles. Top of our list is to agree upfront no physical border infrastructure – that would mean a return to the border posts of the past and is completely unacceptable to the UK.”

What has become a bit clearer is a key point that the expected chorus of  critics from British Remainers and all of Irish nationalism chose to ignore  – that as far as the UK government is concerned,  if there is to be a hard border  it will be the EU that will impose it.

Whitehall officials told The Telegraph that the EU will be legally responsible for any hard border imposed after Brexit and insisted that the UK is determined to be flexible on the issue.

The British have always talked about a ” bespoke ” or ” unprecedented” deal  and believe they have to heft to win it. This remains to be seen. But merely scorning the British position from the point of view of  formal EU rules and almost wanting the negotiations to fail  is not a useful response and ignores the EU’s unrivalled ability to fudge and accommodate.

So the real border solutions will be deferred until later in the negotiations . But will the EU regard the week’s sequence of papers as “sufficient progress” to allow the Article 50 negotiations to continue?  If not we all have a huge problem.

So far official  reactions from Dublin Brussels has been prudently cautious. Position papers do not constitute a negotiation result.

The border paper follows on logical from yesterdays’ paper of a temporary  customs arrangement and the off the record reactions have been cool to say the least.

The real test of progress will be made when the  EU heads of government meet to review it in October.


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